SOUTH Gippsland could become a major horticultural centre in Victoria, injecting tens of millions of dollars into the economy and potentially creating 1000 jobs in the region in the long term.
A South Gippsland Shire Council delegation toured Schreurs and Sons’ massive property at Middle Tarwin last Tuesday (February 21) and heard of the company’s plans to grow the property into a $50 million business with the eventual prospect of 200 jobs.
Produce under the company’s Tarwin Farm brand is now being exported, mainly to Malaysia, and the company also sells to Dubai, Singapore and Japan, as well as to IGA supermarkets at Tarwin Lower, Leongatha and Korumburra.
Other horticultural companies are also expressing an interest in relocating operations to South Gippsland because of the region’s stable climate, Cr Andrew McEwen told The Star after visiting the property.
That prospect would greatly benefit the economies of South Gippsland and particularly the nearby commercial and industrial centre of Leongatha.
“In the next 10 years, if we have 1000ha of intensive horticulture moving into the area, it would create over 1000 jobs for the district,” Cr McEwen said.
“This is fantastic and an opportunity for the region’s agriculture to diversify. It’s not just labouring jobs but also jobs in marketing and science, so there will be opportunities for young people in the district to have career paths.
“The challenge is we need to ensure is there are adequate water supplies but it’s a golden opportunity to increase employment.”
Cr Maxine Kiel, also part of the council delegation, said other growers would be welcome.
“There are many similar opportunities available for businesses/growers to relocate to our region and the South Gippsland Shire Council will be very supportive of any other enquiries,” she said.
Chris Schreurs, the company’s director of business and commercial operations, expected the Middle Tarwin site to be expanded over the next 10 years.
“That means jobs growth. There could be 200 jobs and more as we grow. It’s not going to happen in one hit,” he said.
“We are really just in the beginning phase of it at the moment.”
The company has seven properties on the Mornington Peninsula, Clyde, Devon Meadows and Middle Tarwin.
“Tarwin will eventually be the biggest production over the next five to six years,” Mr Schreurs said.
“At Clyde there is a lot of rezoning of housing development and we are starting to be surrounded by houses, which is not a great situation to be in, and for us to expand and develop our business we need to relocate.”
Mr Schreurs said Middle Tarwin appealed because of its stable climate, quality soil, proximity to the coast minimising risk of frost and access to ample water.
“Last year we did a 50 acre trial crop and it worked out really well,” he said.
By the middle of April this year, the Middle Tarwin site is expected to have 165 acres of celery under full irrigation, with water sourced from the Tarwin River.
Once that crop is harvested, the soil will be rested before crops of leeks and leaf crops are planted. The company leases 887 acres at Middle Tarwin.
A farm manager is the only full-time employee at Middle Tarwin but more staff will be employed as the operation grows.
Mr Schreurs praised council for its support so far, with council staff assisting with permits and advising on environmental management such as suitable native trees to plant as windbreaks and natural filtration systems.
The council delegation also included representatives of council’s economic development and planning teams.
Cr Kiel said, “Council is working with Schreurs to assist in whatever way we can, including with guidance from the planning team and support from the economic development team.”
Schreurs and sons is a third generation family farming business and is fully Australian owned.
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