Mypolonga's Aussie Apricots succeed nationally despite cost of water, Murray-Darling Basin problems

Their products are already favourites in the Murraylands - now Paul and Kathy Prosser hope Aussie Apricots will be named Australia's favourite family business.

A public vote will decide which of 10 finalists, including the Mypolonga dried fruit company, gains national exposure on TV show Kochie's Business Builders in 2020.

A win would cap a successful period for the Mypolonga business, which won prizes at the Royal Adelaide Show and Sydney Royal Fine Food Show this year and was featured on Nine's Today show just last month.

The Prossers will officially open a car museum with a small cinema in March, and are turning an old stone house into a function centre to further diversify their income.

In the meantime, however, their business' durability will be tested by the high cost of water - seven times what it was when they started - as well as frost and hail damage suffered by growers.

With carryover, they would be able to survive if South Australian water users received 50 per cent of their entitlements next year, Mr Prosser said; they just hoped the drought would not last longer or cut deeper.

"This will probably be one of our hardest years," he said.

"Between the weather, the birds and everything else, everything is giving us a bit of a hammering at the moment.

"Without having this (processing) going, we'd be out of business by now.

"Living off apricots, you couldn't do it any more - diversifying is the only way to survive."

Family farms can't compete with corporations

The Prossers are far from the only producers in the Murray-Darling Basin hurting at the moment.

People all over were suffering the effects of corporate intrusions into the water market, an Australian Competition and Consumer Commission inquiry heard in Murray Bridge on Friday.

A Currency Creek grower said it was hard to sustain a business plan when the price of water rose so high - from $120/ML in 2017 to $950/ML this year - and fluctuated so rapidly.

"You sit down in May every year and try to talk about what you're going to do, then water goes up $300 a meg," he said.

"It's like playing the stock market - you've got no idea what's going to happen."

A prominent Murray Bridge grower agreed the market was unfair when irrigators, who had more productive things to do, were competing with corporations whose employees monitored the price of water all day and traded it when prices were right.

"How are you supposed to run a business, budget and keep the bank manager happy when you don't know what price water is going to be week-to-week?" he asked.

A Riverland almond grower argued that neither the Water Act of 2007, the Murray-Darling Basin Plan nor any other policy change had yet solved the original problem facing the river system: too much water was being taken out.

"When we (began trading) water, we opened it up for new developers and people to play games with it," she said.

"Before there wasn't over-subscription, each district managed ... now farmers bear the cost."

It was no surprise that international corporations had chosen to invest in water, driving prices up.

"I'm frustrated we're talking about this like it's the first time," she said, arguing that farmers had warned about the possibility for more than 20 years.

"Corporations are capital-backed to a magnitude we can't compete with.

"We rely on governments to go in to bat for us so we don't have to do this ourselves."

Governments should also have modelled how climate change would affect the water market, a university student said.

SA refuses NSW demands in Murray-Darling Basin

Instead, New South Wales Deputy Premier John Barilaro this week threatened to pull his state out of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan unless the barrages on the Lower Lakes were removed, allowing salt water to flow into the Coorong and up the Lower Murray.

He also insisted NSW would not deliver 450 gigalitres of water it had agreed to under the plan.

South Australian Environment and Water Minister David Speirs said he would not agree to those demands.

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