Australian fresh produce company, Mattina Fresh has transitioned from its summer stone fruit season to the winter pome fruit season, with the commencement of its pear packing.
National Sales Director, Tom Panna explains that he has seen more demand for pears in recent times, and a large reason for that has been having a good eating product on the shelf to cater for what the consumer wants.
"Quality has been pretty good, and the size profile is up, so there will be a lot of large fruit this year," he said. "There is a little bit of russet showing, a bit more than normal, however, the major retailers and APAL have gone through the process of allowing variation to assist with all that. I think the demand is there and we can thank cooking shows such as Master Chef to show how it can be included in salads and cooking, as opposed to just picking it up out of the fruit bowl and eating it fresh. There is a lot of work going on around the condition of the pear; some like it hard and firm, and others like it soft and ready to eat. Hopefully, that research can continue and we can understand our market better. I do think there is more demand because it is an alternative that can be thrown into meals."
The company grows around 6,000 bins of Packham, 1,500 of Williams, 1,000 bins of Buerre Bosc, and 700 bins of Josephine pears. Mr Panna says there will be a bit more focus on exporting pears this season.
"Packhams are the main focus and we are planting more pears as a business," he said. "So, we are looking to grow our winter trade in the future. Export-wise we are looking at Canada, the United Kingdom and a little bit into Bangladesh and India. We are looking forward to seeing how those markets go, given export has been pretty much null and void for us for the past two winters. We are really looking forward to seeing how our products are accepted from a winter perspective in these alternative markets as well."
Strong results from stone fruit season amid rising production costs
Mattina Fresh's main commodity is its stone fruit throughout summer, which finished its season a few weeks ago. Despite the challenges faced by the whole industry in recent times, Mr Panna says as a business, there were actually increases in values across all product lines.
"Going in it was a season where we thought that we had all odds against us," he said. "From labour challenges to logistics, increases to freight costs, and just overall challenges getting product into the box. The increase in values that we saw was positive, and it means we are moving in the right direction. However, it is not quite covering the new costs of production, with what we are up against with the shortages of labour, and bringing in fertilisers/chemicals and things like that. But it is positive that we were able to pass a percentage of those costs onto the consumer and still be able to shift through the amount of volume that was required. It didn't bridge the whole cost of production because we are in a position where if we did pass it on, then the consumer would probably walk away. So, it's about building that happy medium and focusing on producing a good, clean, premium piece of fruit."
There are less than five months before apricots are back on the market to start the next stone fruit season, so work is also underway across the business - and 15,000 trees will be planted to fill some gaps in their program, including yellow nectarines and yellow peaches.
"While winter is a large proportion of what we do, we never stop thinking about summer," Mr Panna said.
The company is also going to begin its citrus program in around six weeks.
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