Home' Grower : April 2013 Contents The South Australian Grower -- April 2013
Hort crops travel well,
bumpy ride for costs
By PAULA THOMPSON
RETURNS on most horticul-
tural crops are a mixed bag,
with rising input costs adding
extra pressure to bottomlines.
The apple industry celebrated its
annual har vest with the Lenswood
Har vest Festival on March 23 and
growers say it has been a reasonably
good year. Apple and Pear Growers
Association chief executive officer
Susie Green said most of the apple
har vest kicked off mid-February.
"The apple har vest is about half
way through," she said.
"Growers are finishing off galas
and red and golden delicious vari-
eties at the moment.
"They still have granny smith, fuji,
pink ladies and sundowners to har-
vest -- a good couple of months to
Ms Green said crop reports paint-
ed a rosy picture.
"The quality has been excellent --
there're some really good apples
being produced," she said.
"With the warm weather, the sug-
ars are up, so the apples are tasting
Yield numbers, on the other
hand, have fallen back this season.
"Yields are still reasonably good,
but they are not as big as last year
when there was a bumper crop,"
Ms Green said.
"This year we're back to a normal
The industry is thankful that the
warm weather and generally dry
conditions prevented pests and dis-
eases from becoming a significant
issue this time.
Pear growers share a similar story
to the apple trade -- good quality
but lower yields than last year.
"It's still a reasonable season," Ms
The pear sector has a shorter sea-
son than the apple trade, and har-
vesting started early February. Ms
Green said the price outlook was
positive compared with last year.
"Obviously, pricing in fresh pro-
duce is still pretty tough in the cur-
rent environment, but at least it's
better than last year, and hopefully
that trend will continue."
The dry conditions allowed har-
vest to move relatively quickly but
growers are now waiting for some
"Pretty well all growers are now
hanging out for a really good rain
to finish off the crop," Ms Green
"It has been so hot and dry that
growers have had to manage their
water very carefully, so they'd really
love a good, soaking rain to top-up
supplies and finish-off later vari-
Citrus Australia-SA region chair-
man Con Poulos said there were
good signs at the early stage of the
season, with early mandarins going
through to the packhouses before
the early navels start.
"Quality looks good, no two sea-
sons are the same and at this stage
it looks like the crops will be up a
bit from last year," he said.
Mr Poulos said returns on early
mandarin varieties had been good,
though traditional orange varieties
such as navels and valencias strug-
gled price-wise. Gumeracha cherry
grower Simon Cornish was happy
that SA produced one of its biggest
cherry crops this past season.
"We had a very big crop of high-
quality fruit because there was no
rain during the har vest season," he
"But, of course, returns were
down with the big crop. A lot of
smaller growers struggled because
returns were pretty poor."
Symbolising the industry's strug-
gle with excess were the high-value
fruit left hanging on the trees.
"Usually there are crops left on
the trees because the cherries had
been cracked by rain. It's ver y
unusual to get good fruit left on
trees," Mr Cornish said.
"But after Christmas, when
demand drops off, and then after
New Year, when demand really bot-
toms-out, if there was fruit left on
the trees, there was really nowhere
for it to go."
Ramped-up cherry exports did
not compensate for the oversupply.
"There were more cherries
exported from SA than usual but
there's really only a couple of grow-
ers in SA that export," Mr Cornish
"And there was competition from
interstate, because there was a big
Potatoes SA chief executive officer
Robbie Davis said growers were still
recovering from poor prices in
2011-12 and working hard to com-
pete against imported processed
"New Zealand is already sending
60 per cent of its product here in a
processed form," Ms Davis said.
"A lot of product is also coming
in from Europe, with Belgian
imports being used for some fast
Growers are also troubled by
biosecurity issues such as the battle
to keep zebra chip out of the coun-
On a positive note, exports to Asia
and the Middle East have increased,
and the potato seed market contin-
ues to grow at a strong pace.
Grow SA chief executive officer
Mike Redmond said the only har-
vest at Virginia at the moment was
the continuing har vest of green-
house tomatoes and summer salad
"We had huge prices for tomatoes
late last year, purely because of sup-
ply and demand," he said.
"At the moment returns aren't
too bad, but growers could always
do with better prices."
Mr Redmond said the real issue
facing the industry was rising input
"The cost of electricity and water
is what growers are very concerned
about, particularly those with small-
er greenhouses," he said.
"A lot of smaller greenhouses
access potable water through the
SA Water pipeline and it's becom-
ing unviable for them.
"For those greenhouses with lim-
ited technology, there are only cer-
tain yields they can expect, and with
the extra prices, it's just making it
impossible for them."
Grow SA said it contacted SA
Water to discuss the pressure of ris-
ing prices and was told they could
not make it cheaper for just one
"It really is all stacking up against
smaller growers," Mr Redmond
"While prices might be ok, they're
not fantastic, and when you add
that to massive increases in input
costs, it puts a fair bit of pressure on
Mr Redmond said the Federal
Government's carbon tax played its
part in increasing costs to growers.
"Our consumers have access to
some of the best and safest vegeta-
bles in the world, but there is signif-
icant pressure being put on our
growers," he said.
Meanwhile, the restructure of the
State's former peak farming repre-
sentative body SAFF is now nearing
Consultant and former Premier
Rob Kerin said there would be a
SAFF meeting in late April to vote
on the restructure and the estab-
lishment of Primary Producers SA.
Mr Redmond said while Grow SA
was supportive of the new body in-
principle, there were some ques-
tions that needed to be answered.
"We can definitely see an advan-
tage in the structure Rob has put
for ward, but the question is how
are they going to make sure every-
one is fairly represented through
that structure," he said.
"We're certainly at the table, and
intend to stay there."
The cost of electricity and water is what growers are
very concerned about, particularly those with
-- MIKE REDMOND
Apple, pear yields fall back
Input costs causing grief
Peak body questions linger
Apple harvest goes smooth
APPLE grower Brenton Green
(pictured at his orchard at
Lenswood) says harvest has been
going along relatively smooth.
"I also have a block up in the
Riverland and I started harvest in
January up there at Renmark," he
Brenton also has an orchard at
Birdwood, and runs 120 hectares all
up. He has been harvesting up in the
Adelaide Hills for the past two
"The quality of the apples has
been quite good, but some have
been a little sun-affected," he said.
Yields are slightly below average.
"We had a massive year last year,
and I think some of the trees went
on strike after that," he said.
Brenton will be harvesting until
the end of May.
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