The Bowen-Gumlu region produces up to 90 per cent of all of tomatoes and capsicums needed for the Australian market during September and October, and harvest is soon to commence. While dry conditions in the major southern tomato growing region of Stanthorpe saw a shortage of the fruit over summer, pushing supermarket prices spiraling upward of $9/kg, Bowen growers have been battling the opposite extreme.
Bowen-Gumlu Growers Association President Carl Walker said wet weather had hampered the beginning of the season, however most growers would begin harvesting on time in May or June.
"We start planting about mid-February, but this year we've had some issues with the weather," Mr Walker said. "It caused all kinds of grief when yo're trying to do land prep, put plastic down and plants in the ground and it won't stop raining. The water was marvelous in some ways, there's top soil moisture the water tables are good and the dams are full, so we're pretty much set for the next couple of years."
Walker said growers needed to receive $2/kg for their tomatoes to recover costs and another dollar or two would be welcome to boost the coffers: "The adverse conditions we've had down south mean there should be decent prices to kick us off. All of us in this region have had two rough years financially, it will be nice to get a bit of a price pick up early in the season, it will certainly help a lot of farmers to meet their financial commitments."
Walker said Bowen was a major producer of tomatoes with one farm alone producing 10 million kilos a year.
Jamie Jurgens, of VJK Produce, has shifted his tomato production to be entirely organic over the last four years: "We were growing in quite a sustainable way to begin with in conventional cropping so it was not a huge transition to organic. We had questions from customers about supplying organic so four years ago we bit the bullet and went the bit extra with what we're doing. It is still early days, the organic market is very small compared to traditional."