Almond family drowning in debt - 12 November


  • The Cavallaro family is drowning in debt because of the water crisis.
  • Call for a National Water Registry to keep tabs on water trading – especially by big corporate players.

A family with 35 years experience in horticulture is facing financial ruin because of the reduced water allocation from the River Murray.

The Cavallaro family has 25,000 almond trees on 100 hectares at Walkers Flat, planted in 2002 and 2004. Like many other growers relying on the Murray this year’s (2007 - 08) 16% water allocation is not enough to keep their trees alive. Even with their state of the art water efficient irrigation system (underground drip lines) at least 30% is needed just to keep the trees alive, and to do this the family borrowed $1 million recently to buy extra water rights (At $2600 per mega litre, this up from $1000 per ML 5 years ago).

The water purchased will keep the trees just alive – but a 100 tonne crop will be sacrificed.

Larry Cavallaro and two of his sons – Peter and David – are directly involved in the family business, with his sons having to take second jobs to make ends meet.

The Cavallaro family is scathing of large corporate players (such as Macquarie Bank and Timbercorp) buying up huge parcels of water rights for Managed Investment Schemes which give significant tax and commercial advantages over family owned farms.

Independent Senate candidate Nick Xenophon who has been approached by the Cavallaros for help, has supported their calls for:

  • A National Water Register to keep track of where water is sold from and eventually used, and prices paid (similar to a land titles register).
  • An ultimatum to inefficient irrigators to restructure - if necessary with financial assistance.
  • A moratorium on new plantings and banning water guzzling annual crops such as rice and cotton.
  • Forcing water users in all states – especially the Eastern States – to adopt best practice water conservation measures as a matter of urgency.
  • Placing restrictions on water licenses being traded outside a geographical region if it will negatively impact on that region’s economy.
  • An extension of low interest loans to implement urgent water conservation measures (for instance the Cavallaros have to spend $30,000 to put a cover on their dam).
  • Getting the Commonwealth to use its Constitutional powers to force Victoria to come to the party with a National Water Plan.
  • An independent inquiry into the power of big supermarket chains, and the margins they are making ex – farmgate.

Mr. Xenophon said:

“The Cavallaro family – like the other 3,500 irrigator families along the Murray in this State – is facing financial ruin because of the water crisis. They are paying the price for Federal and State Governments’ inaction across the Murray Darling Basin. The Eastern States bare the brunt of responsibility for this mess.”


Peter Cavallaro said:

“We need support right now – because in 6 months it will be too late for us and many others. We’ve invested $7 million on this property and we’re facing a wipe out even though we’ve done the right thing by using the best water conservation and irrigation practices.”















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