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Research into potential of Feijoas to become Australia's next 'superfood'
Universities in Australia and New Zealand are studying how effectively it can fight medical conditions such as fungal infections - while scientists are also looking into its anti-cancer and anti-diabetic properties. Produce Art is one of Australia's largest distributors of the fruit, with partners across the Tasman, and is playing a major role in this research.
"Similar to the Queen Garnet Plum, we are doing research with the Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation (QAAFI) at the University of Queensland," Owner Rohan Bicknell said. "It's still early days, but the potential is becoming more and more likely that we have got a very interesting fruit that not only tastes amazing and is unique, but one that will be beneficial to the human being."
Growers are confident of a strong season, thanks to the recent rain that will mean early fruit on the market, and good sizing.
"Both Australia and New Zealand crops are looking quite large," Mr Bicknell said. "So we are doing a lot of pre-selling through our online retail division, through both Produce Art and their Feijoa marketing channel ‘Feijoa Addiction’. Also we have wholesalers in every market across Australia looking for the fruit and also in South East Asia and China."
The New Zealand industry have just developed some new varieties, which are early bearing and double the size of normal feijoas. These plants have just been introduced to Australia, with tree plantings set to increase in coming years.
Produce Art says Australian production of the feijoa picked up over the past decade, when growers started to do more serious planting which has become extremely popular among those who have already tried the fruit.
"You have people like Hinterland Feijoas who have developed their own market where they are selling all their fresh fruit shed door and booking out weeks in advanced with people trying to secure it. Over in Western Australia there is a little established market over there where they have just put in over 20,000 plants. So the volume of feijoas is growing."
But in the mainstream market, Mr Bicknell admits that only around 10 per cent of Australians know about the fruit, which can be both a good and a bad thing.
"I am a little concerned about where we are going to sell all of this fruit, but we are certainly getting the word out there that the Feijoa is a fruit Australians should be consuming," he said. "I guess, 90 per cent of Australians do not know what a feijoa is yet, which I guess is a benefit. Not only that it is still unknown overseas as well. The only way to get it to work is to invest more in marketing. The big problem is that people don't know about it and it is quite expensive for people to spend money to experiment with something."
However, one challenge that presents itself with increased growth and production is the strict export protocols from Australia.
"It's a bit hard for Australia because of our protocol is a lot more stringent with fruit fly," he said. "But that's where New Zealand comes in. Not only do we import them to Australia but me and my partners in New Zealand send to the likes of the USA, Canada, Taiwan, Japan, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore."
The Hawaiian Guava is also coming into season. It is mostly grown in Northern New South Wales, with 90 per cent for the juice market, meaning there is little commercial growers for the fresh market. Despite this, Mr Bicknell says demand for the fruit has grown
"I know the Indian community are huge fans of the Hawaiian Guava," he said. "I think it has been forgotten about in the past, and also Australian flavour profiles are opening up as well, and they are trying new stuff. We are trying to get the word out there that there is fresh Hawaiian Guava for sale. To be honest, it still has a long way to go, but there is a lot of growth to be seen in the fruit with the more marketing that we do, people will understand that it is not just a juicing fruit."
He adds that the most attractive thing about Hawaiian Guava is the smell.
"As it ripens it has an aroma that you can smell from around five to 10 metres away," Mr Bicknell said. "When it is cut you see the beautiful pink flesh, which is quite striking compared to other fruits that we might see out there at the moment. (Sales of) the juice will help gain its popularity as well, I think."
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