We hear from producers in most of our production regions on season highs and lows.
Joe Garreffa, Euston/Robinvale, Sturt Produce
Overall, how is the season progressing for NSW growers?
Overall, the season for NSW growers has been progressing well, despite the 2-3 week delay to the start of the season. This, however, caused an overlap of whites, especially affecting Thompson Seedless demand. Early reds also had demand issues due to a glut.
What have been the season highs?
The high of the season I think would be the fact that some varieties received some unexpectedly good prices and demand was good. There has also been a slight improvement in the availability of labour, which has helped industry with the late start to the season. However, the cost of labour has still increased.
What have been the season lows?
Some of the lows of the season include the fact that there are still those growers out there that insist on sending sour fruit to overseas markets. This is very quickly ruining the reputation of Australian table grapes and our main selling point is TASTE. Too many growers look at the short-term and not the long-term.
Have NSW growers connected regularly during the season to chat about how the season is going?
Many growers in the area have had concerns about sending immature fruit to market when getting together. There have also been concerns this year about the quality of Thompson Seedless. The cooler conditions were not favourable for maturity and market sustainability are a concern.
Growers have also been concerned about the excessive quality assurance requirements they have to undertake.
Is there anything NSW growers are looking forward to next season – or you, individually?
Most growers still remain hopeful for next year – as long as the weather conditions improve and growers do the right thing.
Dominic Sergi, Mildura, SergiFresh
Overall, how is the season progressing for Sunraysia growers?
The start of the season was not too bad. It’s getting a bit more difficult now, everything is coming in at the same time. I’ve got about two weeks left, but I do fear that for some growers who aren’t quite as ahead there may be some fruit left on vines toward the very end.
What have been the season highs (If not an overarching high, can you think of an individual highs)?
The start of the season we had better prices, movement was a bit more free, which considering the season was the best we could hope for.
What have been the season lows? (As above)
There was downy mildew early on and some growers will have lost a percentage but possibly won’t know until the end of the season what that scale of loss was.
Have Sunraysia growers connected regularly during the season to chat about how the season is going or things growers can do to be more collaborative?
I have a lot of friends who are growers and so we chat a lot, but everyone is busy. Growers have just been trying to get through the season. There would not be many growers who saw conditions as bad as they have been, and that’s where experience comes in. One thing I’ve done is asked a lot of older growers, my dad for instance, about whether he’d seen seasons like this one and for a lot, it wasn’t something they’d seen, so the year has been an eye-opener, with lots learnt.
Is there anything Sunraysia growers are looking forward to next season – or you, individually?
I think growers are just looking forward to hopefully better growing conditions, and a consistent flowering so we don’t have the late start again. The colder weather earlier on has just delayed the season and so we’ve just spent all our time getting through this year.
Amancio Cuesta, Queensland, Costa Group
Overall, how did the season progress for Queensland growers?
Overall the season was a positive season considering some of the challenges that we encountered. Movement of fruit was good with strong sales into Christmas
What were the season highs?
Successful first year of production from new growing region in Hughenden was very promising and exciting for the industry
What were the season lows?
Delayed season start date coincided with pre harvest rain which caused issues with harvest and reduced harvest yields on some varieties
Did Queensland growers benefit from weekly catchups during harvest season? How?
Queensland growers connect weekly during the harvest season and these meetings are a great way to get growers from each region to catch up and update on the progress of their crops and some of the challenges they are encountering. It is also an excellent platform for growers to get information from the Brisbane/Sydney and Melbourne wholesale markets on movement of table grapes within each market and competing lines.
Where are growers at now?
Growers are going through post-harvest activities and getting the vineyards ready for pruning in the coming months
Is there anything Qld growers are looking forward to next season – or you, individually?
Increase commercial production of new varieties which will extend the season and provide consumers with a premium eating offer.
Peter Nuich, Western Australia, Nuo’s Grapes
Overall, how did the season progress for WA growers before harvest?
Down south, at Fruitico they’ll be picking into May. For Swan Valley growers, about 98 per cent of growers are finished now. Most of the growers in the Valley were part of the Queensland fruit fly (Qfly) quarantine period (after a detection was made in mid-March). It was only a small section in the Valley in the north-east who were exempt.
The Western Australian Government put in a 15 km exclusion zone around the detection location in Bayswater, that required either the fruit to be methyl bromide treated or go into a certified cool room for 18 days at 0-2 degrees transported. I don’t think any grower in the Valley had a cool room capacity!
All the fruit not yet harvested was sent up to Northern Valley Packers, Bendoon. The fruit was collected from the growers’ properties in a refrigerated truck, was placed into the cool rooms, and once the cool rooms are full, the doors had to remain closed for 18 days. There were data loggers in there to ensure the rooms weren’t above the required temperature. Then they could go to the Canningvale markets.
When the outbreak first happened, there was a two-week period where growers were still picking while the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development introduced some protocols. In that time, growers were trying to get off as much fruit so they could send it into the market. That caused an oversaturation of grapes in the market. They’re just starting to clear the market fruit now. Most of the whites are cleared and there will still be reds, but then the grapes in the cool rooms at Bendoon will be able to go into the markets.
With the recent Qfly outbreak, what is the sentiment among WA growers? How are they currently feeling?
It’s been a bit of a challenge. There have been outbreaks of Qfly previously but they weren’t in any growing regions. This time it’s included most of the Swan Valley, due to the 15-km exclusion zone. Growers down south never had any issue because they were outside the zone.
Have there been any highs? Or any light at the end of the tunnel?
By the time the protocols were put in place, about 80 per cent of the crop was picked off.
It was just lucky it happened when it did happen. If it had have happened at the start of the season there wouldn’t have been the cool room capacity to store the full harvest of fruit, because you have to wait 18 days before you can put more fruit in.
Have there been any collective efforts growers have made to try to work together?
Growers have organised to get a certain amount of fruit picked by a certain time and then trucks would come to pick up growers’ fruit on that day so when they pick up the fruit they have enough to fill the cool room. Growers have worked together to organise pick up times for the trucks (Thursdays/Fridays) and pickups, and DPIRD has helped with that.
Is there anything WA growers are looking forward to next season – or you, individually?
Obviously there are enough hassles growing fruit at the best of times. If they haven’t got rid of Qfly by the next season, there will need to be new measures to handle it. We won’t have the capacity to handle the fruit with the current protocols in place.
Bill Avery, South Australia, Talia Farms
How did the season progress for South Australian growers?
In general, we had a wet cold spring, a lot of disease pressure, especially downy mildew, delayed harvest due to ripening – virtually the same as Sunraysia. The markets are up 40 per cent on last year, but it’s not quite half on what it was pre-Covid.
What have been the season highs?
I’m not yet harvesting this year, my first year will be next year, but it’s been a good year for growing young vines – it hasn’t been too hot and plenty of rain early and the vines took off.
For producing growers, the south Australian market has had low quantities so that’s kept the prices high.
Have there been any season lows?
The disease pressure and delayed ripening and harvest have provided challenges. We only had two days over 40 degrees.
Do the South Australian growers connect regularly?
There are only a few growers in South Australia. We don’t currently get together, but that’s one of my objectives – to meet in person and have a chinwag.
What are you looking forward to?
The international markets are getting back toward pre-Covid levels so that will take a bit of pressure off domestic. Also, the labour hire numbers are increasing as the numbers are flowing back into Australia and this government looks like it will bring more in.