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Developing a new industry for Australia

Australian pomegranates target domestic demand

Although relatively unknown in Australia, locally grown pomegranates are increasingly finding a niche in the domestic market.

While Australia imports around 4,000 tonnes, mainly from the United States,
Malcom Lewis of South Australian based Lewis Horticulture, says there is a market opportunity to fill domestic demand.

Known as an ancient fruit, in more recent times, the pomegranate has re-captured consumer attention through major cooking shows and its use in restaurant dishes.

"The pomegranate is known as a functional food," said Malcom Lewis.
"In other words it not only tastes good but it is good for you."

"At this stage there are two sources of pomegranates - the imported varieties which arrive in Australia from the USA around early September and cease mainly towards the end of the year. 

"There is some carry-over through refrigerated storage."

Pomegranates on trial plot

Malcom said the second source is the domestically produced fruit coming online late January - early February.

While there aren't many established growers in Australia, companies such as Lewis Horticulture and the Victorian based growing/marketing PomLife, are working to change - eyeing both domestic and export potential.

"Developing growers is based on a number of research trips where we evaluated varieties in various countries, market opportunities and the pit-falls to establish what is the most suitable for Australia."

"From this research, we imported genetic material which was propagated post quarantine. A number of varieties were rejected and we're now down to what we think are the best selection."

"The challenge is now to produce growers who understand the sizing and quality of pomegranates the market demands."

Malcom says pomegranates can be grown in most regions of Australia as internationally their production ranges from the snow-lines of Northern Asia and Southern Russia down to India and the Middle East. 

"They are even grown in places like Malaysia, Hawaii and the USA. However the southern part of Australia is our main focus for establishment of farms."

Lewis Horticulture first bought genetic material into Australia 15 years ago, establishing a multi-variety trial plot a decade ago.

"Wonderful Elite 119 is the variety we've developed. The fruit has global acceptance, good appearance, sizing, longevity in storage and transport and the yield is sensational."

"If stored correctly, this variety can be held in cold storage for 3 -4 months. There is a range of criteria for this but that is why Wonderful will become the workhorse selection as it allows shipping for long term export and storage for filling end of season demand."

Malcom believes the changing demographics of the Australian population, with an increasing migrant base, will assist in driving domestic demand.

"With the younger generation having interests in different foods, there is more exploration in food outside the traditional Western style."

"The market opportunity is there - based on the difficulty in filling the current demand. This industry is in its infancy - with not just the fresh market but also the value added markets as well."

Malcom Lewis
Ph: +61 08 8380 9598

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