Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Apple prices up, pears drop off

Some positives in the growing season

December 24, 2013 4:22am

Pink Lady apples.

There has been a glimmer of hope for fresh market apple growers with prices steady or slightly improving, but pear prices have on average remained depressed.

Turnbull Brothers’ orchard manager Alex Turnbull said in the past six months the market for apples and Packham pears has been moderate to good.

‘‘It is a liveable market — the prices aren’t outstanding, neither are they the worst we’ve experienced,’’ Mr Turnbull said.

‘‘Although the market for Williams pears has been shocking.’’

He puts the low prices down to the flood of the canning variety onto the fresh market following SPC Ardmona’s fruit intake cuts.

‘‘People have had to find a market for their fruit and it has been that way for the last three years or so.’’

The Turnbulls grow Granny Smith, Royal Gala and Pink Lady apples, Williams and Packham pears and cherries on about 202ha at Ardmona. The fruit is sent to packers and sold all across Australia.

This puts them in a better position to benefit from the increase in total volume and total value of Australian-grown apples sold in Australia during 2013, as Horticulture Australia Ltd identified.

Growth was seen in all states except Victoria and Western Australia, which reduced by 1.2 per cent 1.99 per cent respectively.

Mr Turnbull said the crop he had now was largely better than last year across the apple varieties they grew.

‘‘There have been reports around the area that Pink Lady and Sundowner crops are down on last year.’’

He said climatic variations including chill hours could be behind the reduction.

Fruit Growers Victoria general manager John Wilson agreed it had been a steady year for fresh market apple prices and that pear prices remained depressed across the year, but were better than the previous year.

According to the Apple and Pear Industry Advisory Committee’s 2012-13 report, retail pricing tactics and a difficult environment for the processing sector saw a challenging year for the industry, as the large crop gave the retail sector an opportunity to put downward pressure on price.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the production of apples and pears increased from 2010 to 2011 by 13 per cent and 30 per cent respectively.

Pear production increased over this period; however the long-term trend shows a consistent decline in production during the past 10 years.

‘‘It looks as if there will be less carryover stock, so it will not depress prices for next year’s season,’’ Mr Wilson said.

He said this pome fruit growing season looked as if it would be an ‘‘off’’ year, except for Granny Smiths.

‘‘There won’t be shortage, nor will there be an over-supply.

‘‘We have things working for us and things working against us.’’

He said the ‘Aussie Apples’ branding including stickers had made it easier for customers to buy fresh Australian fruit, but processed foods needed far clearer statements of Australian grown food content.

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