SPC Ardmona’s production line roared into life on the weekend before Christmas to herald the beginning of the apricot processing season.CATHY WALKER January 1, 2013 4:00am
And the sea of good quality apricots has produced a positive vibe around the Shepparton factory, operations manager Denis Gerrard said.
‘‘We’re right into it now,’’ Mr Gerrard said on Friday.
‘‘The growers have given us very good fruit again this year and if we start right, we finish right.’’
Apricots are the only variety that SPC takes delivery of as much as is available, compared with all the other fruit types, which have quotas.
Mr Gerrard said the apricot quality compared well with last year’s, which was the best for about five years.
Growers from Cobram, Kyabram and various parts of the Goulburn Valley and some from ‘‘down south’’ contribute to the factory’s output, which Mr Gerrard said in 2013 includes ‘‘a lot more product out of fresh (apricots)’’.
‘‘For example, we supply paste for all our IXL products, so the apricot jam is all Australian.’’
It takes no more than eight days from delivery to Shepparton until apricots leave the factory in tins or fresh packets, and the seasonal weather is an important factor.
While livestock producers are scanning the rain radar in hope of a downpour, Mr Gerrard said he doesn’t want rain, particularly like last year around Christmas.
The only blip on his horizon is the extremely hot temperatures predicted on the weekend.
‘‘When the fruit comes in on a hot day we try to get as much heat out of it as possible — on a day that hot you are concerned about fruit splitting and being cooked from the inside by the heat in the stone.’’
In early December, managing director Vince Pinneri told a growers’ meeting the company continued to face challenging trading conditions as a consequence of the high Australian dollar, significant deflation in fresh fruit prices and competition from cheap imported products.
‘‘While we have grown our market share the reality is that demand for packaged fruit has been declining and our fruit intake for the 2013 season reflects this,’’ Mr Pinneri said.
But Mr Gerrard said factory morale was high and the weeks ahead hold a busy schedule — apricots are due to be all done by January 10, followed by peaches and pears and, somewhere in the mix, a window of opportunity to put through 350
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