FNQ the pineapple sweet spot
The Far North Queensland pineapple season is underway at Piñata Farms.
General manager tropical Stephen Scurr, who is based at the Mareeba farm, said full production in the Paddy’s Green district was expected by early November as the harvest at the traditional and key growing region at Wamuran, south-east Queensland, ceased for summer.
“Far North Queensland had favourable pineapple-growing conditions in the lead-up to the season. We had some unseasonal rain during winter which meant we didn’t have to irrigate as much, resulting in water and electricity savings. Fortunately, we didn’t get the wet season that many other parts of Australia experienced. At the Sunshine Coast, incessant rain for much of the year affected picking and planting,” Mr Scurr said.
“However, due to a shortage of planting material in the north 18 months ago, and a decrease in demand due to COVID during the past few summers, we reduced plantings and will produce slightly less fruit this season – as will all other pineapple growers.”
Mr Scurr said Piñata Farms expected demand to begin to recover as consumers returned to shopping in-store.
“Pineapples are one of those fresh produce purchases consumers like to pick for themselves. If the fruit looks great on display, people want to choose the right-size pineapple for their household, smell it and read the label. During COVID waves, consumers did more online shopping than usual and this wasn’t as favourable for many fruits, including pineapples.”
He said this season consumers could expect a flush of early bigger-than-usual fruit (weighing up to 2.8kg), followed by optimal, medium-size fruit (weighing 1.5kg) as production settled into the season.
“Our pineapples are cutting beautifully and tasting sweet and flavoursome. During spring they will have a blush of yellow on the base and light, yellow flesh inside. As we head into summer, skin may be slightly greener but the flesh will always be golden. Pineapples are only picked when they are ripe and don’t ripen after harvest so the skin colour is not an indicator.”
The Mareeba harvest would continue five or six days a week, depending on weather, until late February or early March next year, he said.
Mr Scurr said 15 seasonal workers from Vanuatu had been recruited under the Seasonal Worker Programme as part of the harvest crew.
“We’ve recruited from Vanuatu for several years now. Many workers have been here before or have worked at our other farms. It’s like having family members return home. With farms throughout Australia, we are recruiting more and more of our workforce under this scheme since the backpacker workforce pool is still a long way from recovery.”
Fruit picked and dispatched from Mareeba is transported by road or rail to Wamuran where it is packed for distribution to leading supermarket customers around Australia.
Piñata Farms is the only producer to supply pineapples 52 weeks of the year. The MD2 and 73-50 varieties are all marketed under the Piñata label.