Another ‘kick in the guts’ for Kumbia fruit grower
“ON TOP of last year’s hailstorm disaster, we have copped another fair whack in the guts this year.”
These are the words of Kumbia stonefruit grower Lyndsay Francis.
The South Burnett fruit farmer made national headlines last year when the family orchard was devastated by a hailstorm.
The storm left the Easy 8 orchard with hundreds of thousands of dollars of damage.
Twelve months on, the tireless fruit grower has been dealt another cruel blow.
This time it wasn’t from the weather gods, but from a company they had been dealing with for 17 years.
“Spirits were high after last year, we all kept positive and made some plans,” Mr Francis said.
“Coming into our avocado picking season, we didn’t have much of a crop because of the hail.
“We started picking in August and by the end of August was when we were going to start getting our money come in,” he said.
“We got our first few little payments and then all of a sudden the payments stopped.
“We rang the company and they said ‘oh, there is no problem’.”
Two weeks later, the company had gone into voluntary receivership, leaving Mr Francis $82,000 out of pocket.
He said it was hard to take, but he said the hardest thing was the deceitful way the company went about it.
“After the hailstorm I was as upbeat as you can be because that was Mother Nature, but after what happened to us this year, it’s not nice,” Mr Francis said.
“From a company that we have been dealing with for 17 years, that was the hardest to take.”
“We never knew they were in any sort of trouble so we sent our fruit to them like we always do.
“The worst thing is they were never honest about it.”
The lost earnings would have been used for their workforce they employ in the South Burnett region.
“That money is what we needed to pick and pack our stonefruit,” Mr Francis said.
“We have 60 workers here earning close to $1000 each week, we’ve still got to pay them.”
Moving forward, the unrelenting fruit grower remained optimistic, however he said another big disaster may be enough to change his tune.
“Another big speed bump and we would have to really consider whether it is worth it or not,” he said.
“If I was 20 years younger I’d probably grit my teeth and work our way around it yet again.
“I had someone a little while ago say to me, ‘you would never sell’.”
“Well, I am at the stage now where I would consider it. Which is a shame.”