The Australian-bred antioxidant plum - the specialty Queen Garnet - starts to arrive in stores nationally from this Australia Day long weekend as growers in five states harvest the biggest crop since commercial production began in 2014.
Nutrafruit Pty Ltd, which holds the global licence to produce and distribute the plum, expects to double the volume sent to market last season, despite drought affecting the Queensland crop.
About 40 per cent of this season's crop will be exported to Asia where the plums are highly prized for their colour, flavour and health benefits.
Nutrafruit CEO Luke Couch said it would be the first season for the South Australian crop and at least five new growers from Victoria's Goulburn Valley would begin production. About 30 growers are contracted to grow the plum under licence.
"Queensland's crop at Stanthorpe and Inglewood has been severely impacted by the ongoing drought and is down about 90 per cent on last season."
The national crop will reach full production in 2022. Seasonal conditions had been favourable in most regions and, other than drought, no growers were impacted by bushfires or other extreme weather events which had dominated Australia's spring and summer.
Tree-ripening key to consistency
Unusually for plums, Queen Garnets ripened at the same time in all growing regions, despite variable local growing conditions, he said.
"Our harvest point of difference is that all fruit is tree-ripened which is the best indicator for this variety of colour, flavour and sweetness. Trees are generally picked twice for best results and all growers work to the same harvest regimen so fruit is consistent no matter where you buy it," he said.
Where possible, fruit was distributed to customers in the same state in which it was grown. "However, Queensland's fruit this season will chiefly come from New South Wales or Victoria."
Exports continue to grow
Mr Couch said China remained Nutrafruit's key export nation, with fruit also sent to Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong. A new market is also emerging in Indonesia.
"It will be the second season we've sent Queen Garnets to China since the protocol for stonefruit was established. This market continues to rise year-on-year in line with demand from a vast population and helped by our proximity to Asia.
Flavour drives consumer demand
"It's all about flavour for the Queen Garnet - that's what keeps consumers coming back. It looks appealing, tastes great and has extraordinary health benefits due to its powerful antioxidant content.
"In the past, when fruit was $15 a kilo, only premium shoppers bought it. Now the price has come back, more consumers can experience a great tasting Aussie plum and enjoy exceptional health benefits."
Stored in the fridge, Queen Garnets have a shelf life of up to two weeks.
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