In APAL’s annual report, statistics showing apple and pear production for the last ten years was showcased. Here, Charley delves deeper into what’s behind that data.
The Department of Agriculture – Levies program collects levies on apples and pears grown commercially in Australia. The revenue raised from levies funds projects aimed at delivering benefits to growers, including research and development, marketing and promotion, and biosecurity. Table 1 shows the current levy rates and how they are applied to assist growers.
Levy revenue data provides an accurate snapshot of how much the industry is producing by breaking national apple and pear produce sold into four categories: domestic, juicing, processing and exports.
By analysing a 10 year time series of the levy revenue data, we can obtain some understanding of the industry on an aggregate level.
For apples, the total production levels steadily declined from 2002-03 to 2007-08, with a slow recovery in numbers since then to date. This represents a transitional story in the industry, the theme being the exit of smaller growers and the increase in the number of growers with medium to large holdings. We see that as the number of smaller growers decrease, this is represented by a decline in total production from 2003-2008. At the same time the remaining viable growers have been consolidating their positions during this period, increasing new plantings and upgrading their production systems, to induce the upward trend in total production since 2008.
|Commodity||Rate||Unit||Marketing||R&D||Plant Health Australia||Nation Residue Survey|
|Table 1: Levy rates and designated uses for apple and pear products|
|(Source – Department of Agriculture levy data)|
In fact, figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) show that half the growers in 2003 had an Estimated Value of Agricultural Operations (EVAO) of less than $150,000, while in 2011 this number has increased to $350,000. EVAO is a measure of crop values which takes into account area of crops sown and the crops produced during the year. It does not cover packing and marketing.
We can see a decline in the number of apple and pear growers over time. Notice that there are two series of grower numbers shown in the graph. The green series comes from a detailed survey conducted on the apple and pear industry by the ABS prior to 2008, but was not continued after that year. The red series represents a less informative annual study ABS conducts on agricultural commodities.
Another theme out of the levy revenue data is the increase in fresh productivity (pack-out rate) in the apple industry over the years. This is shown by the increasing share of fresh produce as a percentage of total production, with fresh apples now accounting for 69% compared to 60% a decade ago.
As shown in Australian Fruitgrower – June 2014, the growth in fresh produce is in fact significant enough to keep per capita fresh apple consumption steady. This means that the volume of fresh apple produce is keeping up with the national population growth.
For the pear industry the story is mixed, the zigzag movement in the total production numbers indicates great variability. This variability can be understood by the fact that the Goulburn Valley accounts for 86% of annual national production of pears. Any good or bad year in the Goulburn Valley will pull the national pear numbers along, hence inducing the zigzag movement we see in the data for total production.
Information given by SPC Ardmona to APAL shows a significant decline since 2006-07 in the acreage dedicated to ‘Williams’ pears in the Goulburn Valley, and an increase in the planting of ‘Corella’ and new pear varieties. Despite this decline in ‘Williams’ tree numbers it still accounts for 28% of all pear trees in the Goulburn Valley, placing it second most popular after ‘Packham’.
The levy revenue data shows a significant proportion of pears still going into processing/juicing every year, which shows less emphasis in the pear industry on fresh consumption compared to apples.