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The grape season still providing smiles for one Australian farm in the midst of virus outbreak

An Australian grape producer says he is having a great season, despite the coronavirus pandemic that has spread across the world.

Enrique Rossi from Budou Farms in Western Victoria, says that this year's crop is bigger than expected, with overall large sizes (although no Jumbo size grapes) so he is very happy with the current crop.

"Weather has been critical this year, with a mild summer compared to previous ones, very cloudy and with not so many cooler nights to trigger a good colour development," he said. "However, if you think with all wind, dust storms, lack of rain during winter and spring, vines have been very noble to give us this good crop, so we are thankful of this."

The company supplies mostly to Japan, which takes 99 per cent of supply, and Mr Rossi added that there have been no major issues to his production from the COVID-19 outbreak, with the exception of minor disruptions to logistics.

"Airfreight was very easy at the beginning now is more complicated due to the less availability of airlines flying to Hong Kong and the frequency of flights," Mr Rossi said. "At the moment the virus does not have a major impact yet, as food must be on the table. Saying this, grapes are not a staple item and at the moment things seem OK but is an issue that is developing and hopefully will have an end soon. We also took some measures for the farm, as we are asking backpackers their previous travelling movements, but all of them have been in Australia for a while, so no fresh arrivals. Hand sanitizers are widely available for everyone and we keep people updated, as much as we can with any relevant news. Luckily for us, three of our backpackers are qualified nurses from Japan (Aoi) Korea (Yun) and Hong Kong (Hanna)."

The picking season is normally about two months, but it seems it will be three months this year due to the delay in colouring which is weather dependent. Budou Farms sources its main workforce from backpackers and has a mix of nationalities; from Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Chile. Mr Rossi says this system has actually worked out to be a good marketing tool internationally.

"How ironic? The same people in our workforce, are our best future consumers," he said. "In the past, our backpackers, once they finish their work and holiday in Australia and return to their countries, they always look for our grapes and do promote it in social networks and among family and friends. It might look like a small chain, but it builds over time. Our workforce is our most important point to have for the farm, we are lucky we even have people that return and they even finish the visa extension, as they value the experience and we value and remember every single one of them."

Budou Farms has one new variety that has just planted this year called Maylen seedless.

"It is black and earlier than crimson," Mr Rossi said. "The test vines showed very good results. We have sent some samples to customers and we have made sampling sessions with different people - everyone loves the flavour, calling it 'refreshingly sweet'. Size-wise we achieved 19-24 mm, full black and we think next year we will have even better quality, however, it is still in very low volumes."

For more information
Enrique Rossi
Budou Farms

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