An Australian berry producer is expecting plenty of its berries to be on retail shelves this summer, as two of its growing locations were taken into use this month. Piñata Farms harvests strawberries and raspberries year-round and is currently finishing off the winter-spring program in Wamuran, near Queensland's Sunshine Coast, which is gradually finishing production in its final month, as other production areas begin to ramp up.
"As far as raspberries go, Stanthorpe (in Southern Queensland) started two weeks ago, and Tasmania will start this week," Managing Director Gavin Scurr said. "So, for a couple of weeks, we will have all of our three sites going, until mid-December. As strawberries started growing in mid-September at Stanthorpe and the Wamuran grow was finished in mid-October, all of our strawberries will now come from Stanthorpe until May, when we start again in Wamuran. Just like before, we expect a reasonable transition from one region to another."
Photo: Piñata Farms' Stanthorpe raspberry production under tunnels. Photos source: Facebook
Mr. Scurr says the Stanthorpe region, in particular, has received plenty of rain and hailstorms this season, which comes right after a drought of three years.
"In the past six months, we have had a lot of rain," he said. "One day, about a fortnight ago, we got more rain in one day than we did in the whole 2019 calendar year. Although Stanthorpe is pretty wet right now, all of our strawberries and raspberries are undercover, so the rain itself hasn't impacted fruit quality. However, the humidity has been up, so it's been harder from a growing perspective to control fungal diseases. Luckily, quality is still excellent because they are protected from the heavy rains - it's the rain that destroys the quality."
The company is also impressed by the sizing of the strawberries this season, which Mr. Scurr expects to add to the popularity with consumers. The Diamond Jubilee raspberry is also expected to be high in demand, as usual, due to its "flavor, sizing, and overall quality."
At the same time, Piñata Farms is also gearing up for their busiest time of the year in terms of pineapple production to meet the spike in demand over summer. These, too, are produced year-round, in the North Queensland production region Mareeba, where harvesting started a month ago.
Mr. Scurr shares that this region has seen a mild spring. "Fruit size is looking positive for at least until January, when there may be some smaller fruit coming," Mr. Scurr said. "Summer pineapples are always good quality, and in the warm humid weather, their taste becomes better and better. It's looking like a solid pineapple harvest for us, but generally, we do try to maintain a steady supply, as consumers don't like too many peaks or troughs. We harvest more pineapples over summer than winter due to the demand - and consumers eat more at this time - but we have a solid supply, and have had so for the past six months."
He does note, however, that there could be a challenging few months ahead with the weather, as several storms and possibly even a cyclone is forecast throughout the summer months for North Queensland.
"That could make it challenging to harvest and transport pineapples out of Mareeba due to road closures, which are becoming increasingly likely," Mr. Scurr said, "but that's part of growing in the tropics, and part of extreme weather circumstances; all you can do is be as prepared as you can be. At this stage though - fingers crossed - it seems it will be a good season for us. Overall, the fruit flow is looking positive this year too; some years, it can concentrate and jam up, which can give you a lot more fruit for a few weeks, followed by a trough. That's typical of fruit, but it's looking to be a steady line; when one batch is almost done, the next is ready. Thankfully, it seems like it will continue like that for the next month or so."
Piñata Farms wins Moreton Bay Food and Agribusiness Excellence Award
Growing fruits is not the only achievement of Piñata Farms; it has won the inaugural Food and Agribusiness Excellence Award at the Moreton Bay Region Business Excellence and Innovation Awards 2021, after being among five finalists for the new category award. Mr. Scurr says the award has put farming on the region's map.
"There are some 480,000 residents in our fast-growing region, but many are unaware of the significance of farming in the area," he said. "As a family, we've seen the growth and development of the region and are proud to play a part in it."
He also paid tribute to all Piñata Farms' employees - based on farms from Darwin to Hobart - who worked tirelessly to deliver quality Piñata pineapples, strawberries, Honey Gold mangoes, and raspberries to market throughout the year.
"Our people are committed to excellence throughout the supply chain. In the past 24 months, during the global pandemic, our greatest achievement has been to retain all full-time employees, keep staff safe and well, maintain morale, and continue producing food. This is a testament to the resilience and attitude of our entire team," he said.
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