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Jane Richter - Passionfruit Australia

An abundance of passionfruit this winter

This winter there is an abundance of passionfruit available on the Australian market, and fruit size is also very good.

Jane Richter, Vice President of Passionfruit Australia, and a grower in the Glass House Mountains in South East Queensland said that weather conditions in the last 12-18 months in the four major passionfruit growing areas (3 in Queensland and a pocket in northern New South Wales) had been very different from the norm.

“There was exceptionally wet weather at the start of last year in north Queensland and exceptionally dry weather - a full drought which continues still - in the more southern regions. This really affected the availability of fruit in the peak period up to Christmas in 2019,” explains Jane “Quite a few growers had much less fruit than usual and there were localised hail storms in our region which completely knocked out our fruit so we had none at all in the summer or even autumn months. It was the same for some of the other 8 growers in this direct area.”

But all of these difficulties have conspired to mean that now there are very large quantities of fruit coming from all the growing regions and hitting the market at the same time, which according to Jane is very unusual.

“The unusually big volumes are coinciding with a significant drop in temperatures down in the south of the country which has severely affected consumer demand – added to the turbulence caused by COVID-19. Also, many people down south just don’t think about eating passionfruit in the winter, but it is our second biggest window for harvesting. Depending on the variety and the growing region you can have as many as three crops a year which most people don’t realise.”

The passionfruit’s nutritious properties including the vitamin C content are being highlighted to help increase demand. It is something which consumers are conscious about especially just now with the Coronavirus and it being winter time.

The big volumes at the moment make passionfruit very competitive with other domestic fruit such as apples and pears as far as wholesale pricing is concerned.

Jane comments, “The industry understands that with the erratic supply across the last year, many retailers and consumers have been put off by the higher prices. Now is really the time when, with high quality fruit so plentiful, we need our retail partners to really get behind us with price specials and help to move through the large quantities currently in the supply chain.”

“Delivering high quality fruit through to our loyal consumers is every growers’ number one priority, and with the supply chain over-loaded, without prompt and significant help from the retail end to pull high volumes through quickly, the quality for the consumer will suffer, and as a grower that is the last thing you want to see happen.”

The passionfruit industry has recently invested in a levy funded project to better understand postharvest best practise with the aim of supporting the fruit to reach consumers in the same absolutely perfect, unwrinkled condition that it leaves each farm in.

The outputs from that project are currently being shared across the industry, through a published guide sent out to all growers, a series of articles in the industry journal The Passion Vine, and once COVID-19 restrictions ease further later in the year, the researcher Dr Jenny Ekman from Applied Horticulture Research, will be presenting her findings in person at a Field Day in Murwillumbah on October 17.

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