WHEN the Australian dollar dropped to a 33-month low on June 20, apple growers hoped it would stay that way so they could tap into growing interest in Asian markets.
South Australian grower Mark Joyce, Joyson Orchards, said a high Australian dollar had made them less competitive overseas.
“There has been a lot of interest overseas for our product and it just comes down to dollars and cents, and we just find ourselves in a less competitive situation,” he said.
“UK is our main export market but there has been a lot of enquiries and work going into Asia.
“We certainly need a change in the fortunes of the dollar to really make that become a reality.”
Mark has property in the Adelaide Hills, Riverland and South East and said a falling $A would be a “double-edged sword”.
“It is not going to come without problems, without costs. One would expect that the cost of living will go up because a lot of our goods now that we import will probably go up as well,” he said.
He said the rising cost of living would impact on wages and have a telling effect on growers.
“We are fairly big consumers of labour, that represents almost 50 per cent of our costs so it is tough,” Mark said.
On the recent fruitfly outbreaks in South Australia, Mark said though it had not impacted him, the threat was always a concern.
“It hasn’t been an issue but the ongoing fruitfly issue causes us big problems because it denies us access to most of the people in the world,” he said.
“It denies us access to China which is the biggest potential market.”
In 2012, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, the UK and Thailand were the biggest markets for Australian apples. Small volumes were supplied to Asian markets such as Malaysia, Taiwan and Hong Kong.
Harvest down, quality up
While South Australia’s apple harvest was down 10 per cent to 15pc on last year’s bumper crop, Kim Green, Ellimatta Orchards, Lenswood said quality more than made up for it this year.
“Last year we had a big crop of apples, both here and interstate, and that made marketing pretty tough,” he said.
“Prices were depressed, demand was sluggish, and a lot of fruit that just couldn’t be sold went to juice.
“This year was a bit of a shorter crop, certainly interstate, so it was a different outlook. Prices are a bit better, demand is certainly strong, and there seems to be positiveness in the air.
“It is interesting what a few less cartons of apples can make to a season.”
Kim said the Australian dollar falling below parity shored-up industry confidence.
“It’s hard when we do so much positive stuff and yet, something like the dollar can have such an impact on us,” he said.
“With the dollar dropping, all of a sudden there is a positive air and people feel like there is a bit of a spring in their step.
“You want to get up in the morning and keep farming and yet there is nothing different that we have done.”
Kim said apple growers had plenty to be positive about.
“There are a lot of exciting things if you want to be excited and a lot of depressing things if you want to focus on the depression side of things,” he said.
Growers roll dice for fruit with potential
Consumers can expect good-flavoured apples and exciting new varieties this season.
Robert Green, Oakleigh Orchards said fruits were of high quality this year and the long, dry summer had spiked up sugar levels.
“Fruit should actually be of a better flavour this year because of that,” he said.
He said consumers could expect to see more unique varieties.
“We had an earlier variety of fuji that we put to market in the first weeks of March and that was met with a bit of enthusiasm,” he said.
“Obviously, growers are always looking for something new that has some potential. It is a risky business because it’s a roll of the dice.
“Consumers don’t want to be bored every time they go to the shop, they want to try things new and talk about something new.”
But Robert said new varieties were a few years away, with plantings taking place this winter.
“There are two or three new varieties that are just becoming available to the growers now,” he said.
Robert said more consumers were keen to try out new flavours.
“There is certainly a group of people that like things really sweet but I think a lot of the younger people, particularly those under 30 years old, probably have a bit of a preference for something with a flavour like pink lady,” he said.
He said old favourites no longer had a place in the market if they could not be on the shelf throughout the year.
“Jonathon springs to mind – a beautiful apple but people struggle to get good ones, particularly later in the year. Red delicious has suffered a little bit the same,” Robert said.