Media releases

First Honey Gold harvest for Darwin


The Darwin region will kick off Honey Gold mango season for leading producer Piñata Farms when it harvests its first crop there in coming weeks.

The Honey Gold orchard is set on a portion of a vast holding at Darwin Fruit Farms - a joint venture between LaManna Premier Group and Piñata Farms.

Managing director Gavin Scurr said Humpty Doo near Darwin was specifically selected as a growing region to extend the seasonality of the specialty variety mangoes by up to two weeks. This is due to its slight temperature variance to other regions at Katherine and Mataranka.

"The warm and humid coastal climate of the Darwin region, which experiences cooler summers and warmer winters than other Top End growing regions by several degrees, promotes earlier mango flowering and fruit set," Mr Scurr said.

"However, continued cool mornings across the Northern Territory this spring have pushed the harvest start date back a little from what we originally predicted. We expect to begin in late October or early November which is still about a week to 10 days earlier than Katherine," Mr Scurr said.

Seasonal workers from Vanuatu have been recruited under Piñata's arrangement with the Federal Government's Seasonal Worker Programme to pick Territory grown mangoes.

Piñata Farms has some 170,000 trees under cultivation over 570 hectares in the Northern Territory. All fruit is picked at night to optimise fruit quality and retain freshness before being ripened and distributed nationally.

Mr Scurr said he expected a consistent Honey Gold season from all growing regions, despite challenging windy conditions in the Top End.

"Cool mornings and windy weather have impacted marginally on the size of the crop. We don't expect any challenges with fruit size or quality."

Piñata Farms and some 30 contracted growers produce Honey Gold mangoes in five states between October and March. Queensland growers in the Burdekin and Bowen regions - which have also experienced unseasonably cooler mornings than usual - are expected to start their Honey Gold harvests in mid-December.

Honey Gold mangoes are available at leading supermarkets nationally where they fetch a premium.

Business as usual for raspberries despite drought

Piñata Farms will harvest a spring raspberry crop near Stanthorpe, southern Queensland, for joint venture partner BerryWorld in late October, despite some of the most challenging growing conditions experienced in the fruit producer's history.

Drought-declared Stanthorpe has received little to no rainfall since last October and experienced the driest summer on record, forcing Piñata Farms to forego planting a summer strawberry crop.

"The Stanthorpe raspberries are looking great considering the conditions and poor water quality (where the raspberries are grown on a combination of reused and fresh water). The plants are just starting to flower and we expect to harvest in late October, with no impact on fruit quality," Mr Scurr said.

"We're pinning hopes on October bringing rain as the 175mm we received last October was the last meaningful rain received in the area. Even 50mm would make a huge difference. On-farms dams are at less than five per cent capacity.

"We'll consider transporting water if no rainfall is received by Christmas, however, we remain hopeful that won't happen."

Berry growth continues in Queensland, Tasmania

Meanwhile, the specialty raspberry crop continues to expand at Orielton, Tasmania and Wamuran, south-east Queensland as Piñata Farms makes further inroads into the specialty berry category.

Planting is set to begin at Orielton in late October for harvesting in early 2020, while polytunnel construction continues at Wamuran.

Tasmanian berry farm manager Mark Salter said farm infrastructure completed at Orielton included dam works, tunnel construction and irrigation set-up.

"We're filling the dam from our allocation from the South East Irrigation Scheme, and organising planting to begin shortly," he said.

"A combination of long canes (floricanes) and primocanes will be planted to spread out the season as long canes develop a crop first."

BerryWorld-branded raspberries are available at selected Woolworths stores in Queensland but, over time, will supply the East Coast.