26 Dec Making News this week
What’s Happening in News this week
Wet Winter sets up bumper stonefruit crop
Fruit lovers can look forward to a bumper crop of sweet summer fruit after a wet winter, with nectarines, peaches and plums set to hit shelves within weeks. Although orchardists are breathing easier after rain filled dams early in winter, they are nervous about the long-term future of the industry. Third-generation farmer John Vetta said he had his “fingers crossed” for an excellent season. Though it would be December before the full flood of stone fruit hit supermarket shelves, signs were good for top-quality fruit, he said. “Last year the dams never filled up and we were operating below 100 per cent capacity,” Mr Vetta said. “This year they filled up two months ago. Bees are foraging around, the foliage looks good and water won’t be as much of a limitation.”
Mr Vetta said nectarines would be the first stone fruit. “It will be mid-November we hope (for the first fruit), and you try to extend the season so you get early and late varieties, we hope to produce until March,” he said. Mr Vetta said though signs were there for a good season of more than 230 tonnes for the family business.
Blueberry prices to plummet
There is hope in sight for all those wishing blueberries, commonly referred to as a “superfood” would drop in price. A Japanese ban on the fruit is having flow-on effects for Australia, with an additional 300 tonnes of Coriondi blueberries meant for Japan instead entering the domestic market between October and February. Blueberries have long been known to have high levels of antioxidants and the demand has skyrocketed as consumers try to get their hands on the delicious pieces of superfood goodness. But the price is often a problem for shoppers, who are more likely to buy a frozen packet of the fruit than a smaller punnet, which can retail from $4 anywhere up to $9.
Now, prices are expected to plummet, after the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture banned imports of blueberries over fears they may be contaminated by Mediterranean fruit fly. Japan is one of the biggest importers of Australian blueberries, followed by the UK, Singapore and Hong Kong. Head of Australia’s largest blueberry exporter, Berry Exchange, Peter McPherson, told The Financial Review fruit fly does exist on the Australian eastern seaboard but he has never seen an infestation in the 13 years he has been exporting to Japan. The ban, he says, is the result of a technicality in the Japanese import laws, which they are hoping to rectify. “We are confident we will get back on that market eventually, hopefully nexr year or the year after,” he says.
The build up of blueberries not being exported to Japan will leave Australia will excess supply, which will lower prices. “We’re at a point now where the only way we can move the added volumes is through price reductions,” Blueberry Growers Australia Chairman and Tasmanian blueberry grower Greg McCulloch told The Financial Review. Bluberry demand has increased dramatically in recent years and is expected to grow by a further 30 per cent in 2011. “Blueberries are a must-have product for supermarkets and the challenge will be how we balance supply in the next six to seven months,” McPherson said. “People are consuming four to five times the amount they were in the mid-1990’s.”
PMA says Katter’s Farm Gate to Plate Bill is unworkable
The ‘Farm Gate to Plate’ Bill proposed by Federal Independents Bob Katter MHR and Senator Nick Xenophon has been slammed by the Produce Marketing Association (PMA) which says that the costs of compliance would defeat its purpose.
The Bill (formally referred to as the Constitutional Corporations (Farm Gate to Plate) Bill 2011), would require grocery retailers to display the farm gate price of fresh fruit and vegetables next to the retail price and on it’s website to ‘enable consumers to understand the pricing practices of grocery retailers’.
The Bill provides for penalties to be imposed on retailers who breach its provisions.
But Michael Worthington, spokesperson for PMA, says the Bill is unworkable.
“It’s very, very difficult for supermarkets who buy from wholesalers, sometimes from packers or processors, and there’s not a clear line to what those organisations paid growers,” Mr Worthington said.
Senator Xenophon has dismissed the criticism, saying there should be a national debate about what farmers are paid for their produce. He says growers are feeling squeezed by big retailers and the Bill would be part of a package of reforms to bring about more transparency to the retails supply chain.
A Senate Inquiry to investigate and review the Farm Gate to Plate Bill is open for submissions until the end of October and is due to report by 24 November 2011.
Edna Spurway passes away
Edna Spurway, the great granddaughter of apple legend Granny Smith, passed away earlier this week.
Edna credited her 101 years and good health, great genes and lots of apples. She celebrated her 101st birthday in style earlier this year, with a slice of home cooked apple pie, curtesy of celebrity chef, Curtis Stone.
Edna was much loved by her many nieces and nephews, fondly known as Aunty Teddy by them and also by the family of her long-time deceased fiance, the Chitticks. Though Edna never married, she was once engaged to Lieutenant Hedley Chittick who sadly died after a surgery a few months prior to their wedding.
The matriarch of the Aussie Apple Industry, she will be missed by many in the industry as well as by her family.