CongeladosEne. 16, 2015
Australia: demanda de arándanos supera a la oferta
BOOMING consumer demand for berries is underwriting solid prices that have combined with improved growing techniques and new varieties to fuel huge growth in production.
The value of the NSW blueberry crop has increased four-fold in the past six years to be more than $100 million and, judging by expansion plans across the main growing region, the North Coast, that growth is likely to continue.
Hot on the heels are raspberries, with national production rising from less than 500 tonnes a year in 2004 to in excess of 3000t in 2014.
This summer, supermarkets have been using berries as a drawcard into the fruit and vegetable section and industry leaders say demand is outstripping supply.
Wholesale blueberry prices are this week at $25 to $30 for a tray of 12 punnets, 125 grams, which is down from the $40 peak of last year. Raspberries averaged bet-ween $42 and $48/tray last year.
Despite hefty set-up costs, the profitability of berries, in conjunction with an ongoing farmgate banana price squeeze, has placed blueberries as a dominant crop in NSW’s subtropical fruit industry.
Australian Blueberry Growers Association’s industry development officer Phillip Wilk said the NSW area under production had more than doubled since 2007 to 1100 hectares with many former banana growers on the Mid North Coast switching to berries and greenhouse vegetable production.
Industry leaders say while flavour is a big demand driver for berries, the health benefits, convenience and multitude of uses the “superfood” boasts has set the foundations for ongoing domestic and global growth in consumption.
Raspberries and Blackberries Australia industry development manager Jonathan Eccles said while Victoria was still the largest producer of raspberries, NSW was not far behind.
The introduction of low-chill varieties and varieties which fruit year-round had prompted a significant production shift into the North Coast and Queensland, he said.
The industry was also shifting from its traditional make-up of small farms growing raspberries on the side to larger specialist growers supplying marketing companies, he said.
That critical mass had led to supermarkets becoming more interested.
The increase in hydroponic production had further allowed increased production per unit of area and better quality fruit, Mr Eccles said.
Meanwhile, the subtropical banana industry has moved to re-invent itself in recent times in order to retain market share, promoting the unique taste and convenient size of NSW-grown fruit.
Trade has been depressed due to increased competition from other fruits and solid supply, with the best quality Cavendish fruit making $15 to $20 for a 13kg carton wholesale this week.
Lady Finger banana prices have lifted slightly from Christmas to trade at $32 to $36 for 8kg cartons.
Mango production is on track with forecasts of about 4.5 million trays out of Queensland this season, very close to last year’s crop.
Top class Kensington Prides from Queensland in the past few weeks have made $24 at Brisbane and $20 in Sydney this week.
Pot of mango gold
THE decision to grow a niche variety and harvest fruit when it is ripe has allowed second generation Northern NSW mango growers Steve and Terrie Baker to tap into a premium market.
The Bakers have 40 hectares of Honeygold mangoes under production at “Sunnyplace”, Yelgun, and are due to start picking in mid February.
Their fruit goes to the Sydney Wholesale Markets, under the Pinata label, where Honeygold mangoes are currently making $30 to $40 for a 7kg tray, compared to $20 to $30 for Kensington Prides.
“Honeygolds have always commanded a premium but that gap has grown in recent years as they have developed a strong following on the back of taste, appearance and good shelf-life,” said Mr Baker (pictured with his children Josh, 9, and Heidi, 5).
“They have their own set of challenges to grow in this region – wet weather can cause quality issues during harvest, but by harvesting ripe we’ve got around that.
“Picking them ripe is also the best quality you can get and that is important when you are targeting a premium market.”