'Nuts' to new tax: farmer

BIG ENTERPRISE: Bernie Rochester standing in front of his 20.2 hectares (50 acres) of pecan nut trees. These are only
BIG ENTERPRISE: Bernie Rochester standing in front of his 20.2 hectares (50 acres) of pecan nut trees. These are only "babies" and will double in size, he says. They are 30 years old but will live 200 years.

MUMBALLUP pecan nut grower Bernie Rochester is gloomily contemplating a huge increase in his production costs, due to the Federal Government’s new carbon tax.

“There has been a 400 per cent rise in the cost of refrigerant gas,” he said on Friday, during a break in inspecting and cleaning pieces of shell from the latest harvest’s nuts.

“They have developed a new refrigerant that is compatible with the atmosphere, but instead of paying the carbon tax on it, we will be paying a hugely increased price to the gas company instead.”

Horticulturalists have been told freon gas costs will triple, partly due to the Federal Government’s carbon levy.

The most common refrigerant rose from $65 a kilogram to $181 on July 9 and similar products are also set to rise two to three-fold.

Refrigerant gas suppliers are switching from freon to ammonium but charging their customers hugely increased prices.

“I don’t know if they are making more profit but it certainly seems like a steep rise,” Mr Rochester said.

The Water Corporation and Western Power are also passing on carbon tax costs and so is his cardboard box supplier.

Farmer organisations have also complained that fertiliser prices will rise.

“It seems to be affecting everything you buy,” Mr Rochester said. “I suppose it will affect fuel too.”

Independent research, commissioned by the National Farmers Federation, has shown indirect energy and transport price rises may cost farmers thousands of dollars each year.

WAFarmers expects this financial burden to increase further when the tax exemption for heavy vehicle fuel is removed next year.

“I suppose we can offset the price rises by putting prices up but that’s difficult in a competitive market,” Mr Rochester said.

“We can absorb it, work smarter or shut down.”

So far he has not been hit by the higher refrigerant costs.

“It will hit when there is a problem with the cool room,” he said.

“This happens every two or three years. You will have problem and they come out and refill the gas. You only need a leak from a pipe or a valve on the compressor to fail and you lose all your gas.”

The cost increases were not fair on his customers and he thought it might affect sales.