Pineapple industry faces a challenging Summer
Pure Gold Pineapples provide about 50 per cent of all the pineapples to Australia’s major supermarkets as well as smaller chains and independent grocers.
Odds are, if you’ve bought a pineapple from a Coles, Woolies, Aldi or IGA, it has come from the Capricorn Coast.
Much of the product they move comes from suppliers on the Capricorn Coast, but the recent drought threatens to bring the Central Queensland pineapple industry to its knees.
Normally pineapples, a member of the cactus family, are drought-hardy fruits, but by all reports, are not hardy enough to ride out the big dry currently facing Central Queensland.
“The first half of the season started well with pretty good moisture and growing conditions but in this region, we haven’t had any real rainfall for over 6 months now,” Pure Gold Pineapples co-director Joe Craggs said.
“What was looking like it was going to be a good summer has been starved of moisture and now the fruits are late.
He explained the final two weeks of a pineapple’s life were where they filled out but with no moisture, many leaving the production line were smaller and pricklier.
“They taste great, but they don’t look fantastic,” Mr Craggs said.
“We’re marketing the fruit as well as we can, but the yield is down 30 to 50 per cent.”
PGP has adopted an innovative marketing strategy with colourful labelling listing the uses of pineapples in a bid to push sales.
The last time such a campaign was implemented was in the wake of Cyclone Marcia.
The midsummer and Christmas period marks the time of time of highest demand but as production fails to ramp up, the industry is left in a precarious position.
“Lots of customers want our products but we can’t provide it,” Mr Craggs said.
“We’re running on half speed at a time when demand doubles.
“The spotlight begins to shine on Central Queensland this time of year, and usually we do a great job, but because of the lack of rainfall we’re delayed and down on yield.”
Apart from marketing measures, the industry is left with no other options but to pray for rain.:
There remains potential to catch-up with late rain in January, but the forecasts are not looking good.
“We would expect coming into storm season that we would get some rain, but the predictions are all saying a below average season which is a real concern,” Mr Craggs said.
Looking forward, Mr Craggs holds concerns for suppliers who are already out of water.
“The fear is, for the growers in Central Queensland, is that the dams on their properties are already dried up and they’re at a point where they’re in desperate need of a decent rain,” he said.
“If that doesn’t happen, every process on the farm becomes compromised. They can’t water their crops.
“We constantly plant, grow and harvest all year round so every process from planting to applying fertiliser that needs water – everything becomes restricted.
“We’re at that critical point now where farmers are literally running out of water.”
As for mitigation methods, dams and land management in order to hold more water appears to be the only option for growers, but with no rain on the horizon, it may be too little, too late.
“Pineapples can handle a fair bit of dry weather, but they can’t handle no water,” Mr Craggs said.
“Every year our growers are looking at mitigation measures.”
Pineapples, much like any other commodity, are very much at the mercy of supply and demand market forces.
If the poor yield continues, consumers will be forced to pay more for the summer favourite.