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AU: Premium apple grower says industry needs to work to lift consumption
As one New South Wales apple grower prepares to swing into full production, they say the industry needs to work together to lift the profile of the fruit.
BiteRiot! produces premium apples and cherries in the Mount Canobolas district, west of Sydney. Owner Bernard Hall says while new varieties are a step in the right direction and popular with the consumer, it can work out to be a lot of upfront costs to establish. He would like to see an industry-wide campaign to boost consumption of the fruit, regardless of the variety.
"We need to drive the apple consumption again as it appears to be declining," Mr Hall said. "So as an industry we need to work out how to do this. Anything which is good for the end consumer that will increase apple consumption has to be good for the industry, however the sheer set up costs of new blocks (of new varieties) these days demands a high return per kilogram."
Mr Hall says harvest is around 7-10 days earlier than last year, meaning BiteRiot! will be in full swing by the end of this week, Mr Hall says and the quality is very good with the cold nights assisting with the colouring of the apple - although there will be less quantity.
"All varieties are going to be slightly down on volume 15-20 per cent, however the quality will be up," he added. "What we lose in volume we will pick up in good size. Overall the weather has been kinder this season. With a dry growing season, with plenty of watering and good farm management, a positive outcome will be the end result. We do hope for the market to reflect this."
Apples are harvested from February to May and BiteRiot! handpicks several varieties including Fuji, Pink Ladies, Royal Galas and Kanzi - which has become very popular in recent seasons.
"The Kanzi success is to do with the sweetness, firmness, juice and overall appearance," Mr Hall said. "It has a great marketing body behind the variety and some fantastic growers growing the variety. It is not the easiest variety to grow but growers who can do it well can pat themselves on the back. It is available at the supermarket from the 2nd or 3rd week of March and available in Coles, Woolworths and high-end independents."
The company's biggest market will still be domestic but they are exploring some niche export market opportunities, and say driving this is the importance of finding other markets in a high volume year.
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