By the time you read this editorial Michele Allan and I will have completed our grower visits around Australia and followed up on many of the issues raised.
We discussed national issues of poor pricing; ineffective apple and pear marketing; the need to increase consumption per head; new varieties; the need for consistent quality; and the need for all growers to be members of Horticulture Innovation Australia (HIA). Local and State issues including water, pests and the shrinking role of state departments of agriculture were also raised. We also had the opportunity to look at value-added products and opportunities including juicing when we saw the new Appledale co-operatives mechanical harvester that will significantly improve the profit in ‘growing for juicing’ and Avondale Foods apple processing facility. Both of these, and other similar facilities across Australia, are a very important part of our industry in assisting growers to improve their profitability or recovery from second grade fruit. APAL will be investigating R&D around the world to ensure all our processors are aware of latest techniques, equipment and processes. We also discussed opportunities for additional value-added products from apples and pears and the potential for these to improve industry profitability and ensure full use of all production. Part of this process was the commissioning of specific pear nutritional research with the CSIRO some of which I hope you have seen in the media. Once complete we will consolidate with similar research undertaken on apples in 2010 to both reassess our marketing and nutritional claims and identify niches in value-added products such as compressed fruit bars, vinegar, and extruded cereal or similar products – ideally where growers own the brand. Longer term, getting more out of our production by converting it into shelf-stable, no-protocol, easily exportable products will significantly add value to the Australian industry and grower profitability.