This week in fresh produce

Eagle Boys serve up Australia's first dessert pizza

Australian restaurant chain Eagle Boys has launched what it claims to be Australia’s first profiterole pizza, the ‘Profiterizza’.
Eagle Boys CEO Todd Clayton said, “At Eagle Boys we’ve focused on developing a real taste menu made from flavoursome ingredient combinations. We know our customers are always looking for something different to satisfy their tastebuds.
The Profiterizza contains Bavarian custard, strawberries, chocolate fudge and patisserie crème filled profiteroles.
Eagle Boys Pizza operates more than 340 franchised stores throughout Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia, the ACT, and the Northern Territory.

Queensland horticulture to hit $10b by 2020

The Queensland Government has released a plan to more than double the value of Queensland's horticulture industries within a decade. Agriculture Minister Tim Mulherin said ‘Horticulture 2020: An alliance for action’ was an alliance between industry and government which been developed to boost the value of the industry from $4.1 billion to $10 billion within the next 10 years.

"Horticulture is Queensland's second largest primary industry sector and supplies over one third of Australia's fresh fruit and vegetables," Mr Mulherin said.

"More than 120 different fruit, vegetable, nut and lifestyle crops are grown here, making a valuable contribution to our regional and metropolitan economies.

"Consumption of fresh and processed fruits, vegetables and nuts is expected to increase in line with growing populations, in Australia and internationally, as well as the greater awareness of healthy lifestyle choices in coming years.”

Mr Mulherin said the goal of Horticulture 2020 was to ensure Queensland's ongoing competitiveness to meet these demands by reducing costs, increasing efficiency and delivering on customer expectations. "By boosting the industry we will more than double the 45,000 people employment in horticulture across Queensland, particularly in the horticulture regions of Bundaberg, Lockyer Valley, Bowen and Atherton Tablelands," he said.

Growcom chairman John Bishop said the Horticulture 2020 process was an excellent step forward in assisting the horticulture industry to reach its full potential. "By bringing the key players in the horticulture industry together, we anticipate a renewed focus on the needs of this important industry," Mr Bishop said.

Cherry crop looking rosier this year

Cherry growers have begun harvesting in northern Victoria, with the industry expecting a much better crop this year.
Cherry Growers Australia is predicting about 10,000 to 12,000 tonnes of fruit will be picked throughout the country this season.
President Andrew Smith says that's much higher than last year.
"Last year was down a considerable amount because of the bad weather we had. We sort of only got about 7,500 tonnes harvested."

Bumper stone fruit harvest but prices down

Stone fruit growers in South Australia say they are harvesting their best quality fruit in years, but facing lower prices. The harvest started about a month ago on Jason Size's property at Bookpurnong near Loxton. "Generally my harvest will go probably to mid-March so I've still got quite a way to go," he said. Dino Cerrachi from the Fresh Fruit Growers Association says prices are down by about 20 per cent because a bigger crop has weakened overall demand.

"Then all of a sudden there's a panic, and that panic forced that price down very very quickly and everyone's reeling and wondering what's going on," he said. But he says there is still time for prices to rise before the end of the season. Orange and avocado growers also have been facing the issue of high volumes but lower prices.

Araluen fruit growers turn stone into gold

In the Monga and Deua mountains above Araluen, once famous for gold, the air's thick with warm eucalyptus fumes. But on the valley floor below, delicious peach nectar aromas linger as sugar forms inside the village's ripening stone fruit. Wisbey's orchard trees are hanging with plump peaches and nectarines, their dark maroon skins peeping through deep green leaves. The Trans Pacific Partnership free trade deal announced after the Asia Pacific Economic Forum could be the final star to align over an exceptional harvest this year. Wisbey's owner Robyn Clubb says the southern hemisphere's fruit could well take a big bite from traditional northern hemisphere markets throughout Asia. ''I hope that the agreement will mean during our season there will be more exports. ''Hopefully more into Hong Kong, more into Taiwan, more into China, and into Japan where they particularly love the white flesh nectarines and peaches. ''Our late white peaches come in around Chinese New Year and there's strong demand.''

South-east of Braidwood, Araluen's microclimate gives the stone fruit its distinctive flavours. Mrs Clubb said aside from the well drained sandy loam soil, winter delivered enough ''chill hours'' under 7 degrees to set the fruit, followed by glorious summer heat which brought out the sugar. She said through July, August and September Araluen tracked Canberra's temperatures, while summer was 5 degrees hotter than the ACT's. Backpackers have spread the word about Araluen. They arrive from Germany, Ireland, France, Italy and Sweden over summer, working enough days through the harvest, and later during pruning, to extend their stay in Australia. ''Social media has been a great thing for us because they all tell each other about their experience and then we've got the people who have been here previously as well. ''We have got to the stage where we don't have to advertise for staff at all. We have really worked hard on looking after people and building good facilities, nice cabins, nice camping grounds to sleep in. They tell their mates , so we get this referral system.''

Mostly in their mid-20s, the backpackers join local school leavers and university students and often spend Christmas Day at the orchard playing volleyball and soccer. Mrs Clubb plans to add to the value of the harvest with drying peaches, which will mean adding a kitchen to the packing shed. She will open a coffee shop next year to serve visitors who already arrive regularly in coaches from the South Coast, Goulburn and Canberra. ''We have also tested old dry peach wood to smoke salmon from the coast. That was beautiful,'' she said. While tourists and backpackers are welcome, Mrs Clubb has politely refused beekeepers' requests to share in the blossom. Flowering eucalyptus feed bees throughout winter, and are healthy and plentiful throughout the valley As well as introducing two new Californian peach varieties, Wisbey's are testing Tasmanian purple garlic.