THEY might have a few bumps and blemishes, but this season’s apples and pears are as tasty as ever.
And according to Forest Range apple grower Noel Mason, if Adelaide Hills growers had not being hit by a destructive hailstorm in October, it would have been a bumper of a season.
Instead, the apple and pear industry, along with Hort Innovation, have worked alongside supermarkets to get hail-affected fruit onto their shelves as part of the Hailstorm Heroes campaign – which was launched last week.
The Royal Gala apples and Williams pears were the first to hit the supermarket shelves, with later growing varieties to follow.
“If the public can support us by purchasing SA fruit, the more fruit that is purchased and eaten is better for us,” Noel said.
Noel, a third generation grower, farms 20 hectares of apples alongside his father Ashley and cousins Stephen and Graham, and they have welcomed the Hailstorm Heroes campaign.
The Masons’ entire crop was hit by the hailstorm, with some varieties coming off better than others, but the extent of the damage was not known until the fruit started to grow larger.
Recently, 60 per cent from a line of the Masons’ Jazz-packed apples were deemed marketable fruit, with the remainder knocked back to juice quality.
“Everything will make the juice quality, but the juice prices are below our cost of production, and we can’t grow fruit just for juicing,” Stephen said.
“If the customers buy the damaged fruit in the supermarkets, and the supermarkets can see lines of fruit selling, they’ll readily accept more damaged fruit.”
There are 60 apple and pear growers in SA, contributing 10pc of the national crop – which is almost 30,000 tonnes of apples, worth $63.5 million annually.
SA grows 5pc of the national pear crop at about 5700t, with a value of $11.7m.
Apple and Pear Growers Association chief executive officer Susie Green said the hail-affected fruit was not a “short-term” supply for supermarkets, but would be on the shelves for many months.
But she said there was no reason to stop buying apples and pears.
“The fruit this year is beautiful, if you peel the apples, you wouldn’t even know,” she said.
One challenge farmers and juicers are facing is the amount of fruit downgraded to juice quality.
“The juice market can only absorb so much fruit (and) if we are not able to get more of this perfectly good fruit into the fresh market, there’s a real risk it will go to waste,” Ms Green said.
“This is really a tangible way SA can help support the growers and improve the income back to them, because they’re going through some tough times.