SP Exports’ Kevin Philip with dead and dying plants and fruit after December’s heavy rain.
SP Exports’ Kevin Philip with dead and dying plants and fruit after December’s heavy rain. Gary Hutchison

Exporting firm to fire workers

DAMAGE from wet weather is forcing major tomato producer and packager SP Exports to lay off more than 100 staff members.

Managing director Andrew Philip said the weather had a major impact on the business.

“The rain and flooding has done significant damage to our production,” he said.

Mr Philip said the extended wet December weather, coupled with flooding, saw some crops die while others had a reduced yield.

He said of the company's 300 staff, about 60 people in the packing shed and another 50 or 60 of the pickers would be laid off.

He said he was very happy with the state government's flood relief package, which would give the workers some income while they were out of work.

“It means we are able to look after the rest of our staff and keep our business going,” he said.

Mr Philip said the grant assistance meant there would still be money circulating in the community.

But there is some hope on the horizon with the company looking to get back to full production as soon as possible, which would see the number of jobs restored.

“We're looking to purchase fruit from as far away as WA and Victoria,” Mr Philip said.

But there were even problems with that, with flooding in Victoria also affecting tomato production there.

However, Mr Philip said the company would be able to get limited supplies from WA.

“We're getting as much fruit as we can so we can fulfil our contracts,” he said.

Mr Philip said crops planted since Christmas were going well, and picking should start in March.

Full production should be achieved by Easter.



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