Carve a pine and help a local farmer

Growers still on road to recovery after horror 2022

LOCAL growers are calling on households to support the industry by carving a pineapple this Halloween.

The call for support follows a horror 2022/23 season that saw millions of tonnes of crops go to waste after early flowering caused by extreme wet weather.

The early ripening saw an unprecedented surplus of undersized and unprofitable fruit, followed by extreme prices caused by a lack of supply.

Tropical Pines general manager, Anthony Dobson, said the industry was still in recovery mode.

“We should be back to 100 per cent by around April 2024,” he said.

“The flowering event was an unheard of natural occurrence and really knocked the industry around, and our growers have been doing it tough.

“In March this year we fell into a massive hole where we had only around 20 per cent of our normal supply.

“It was like someone had just turned the tap off – we went from a massive amount of fruit to almost no fruit and we are just starting to normalise now.”

While it is estimated that Australia produces less than 1 per cent of the world’s fresh pineapple, the local industry supplies almost the entire domestic market.

Local growers said they had been attempting to parry away a barrage of hits from COVID-19 to extreme weather and increased production costs and supply chain issues.

Australian Pineapples Committee representative and fourth generation Beerwah farmer, Ben Stokes, explained that local growers were forced to harvest half their annual yield in an impossible three-week window last year.

“We essentially made no money during this bad period,” he said.

“However, we are just coming back into normality. It was definitely a poor start to the year which was then followed by unprecedented high pricing due to lack of stock which would have turned people off.

“Prices are now stabilising and our challenge now will be to get consumers back.”

He said while a natural flowering occurred every year, as far as he knew, it had never occurred on such a massive and financially devastating scale, forcing some local growers to re-evaluate their futures. He added that despite around 30-35 million pineapples entering the market,  consumption rates were still relatively low, and industry advocates were doing all they could to boost retail confidence and consumption.

Ken Fullerton said his family had been growing pineapples in the Glasshouse region for 100 years and said the last year had been devastating for local producers, with the losses “heartbreaking to see”.

He said he was relieved to see the industry get back on its feet.

“We’re just getting back on track now,” he said.

“We lost a lot of fruit over the year that was destined for market and over 100 tonnes we just had to send as juice. We lost close to $1 million just on our farms and there would have been massive losses across the board for all growers in our region.

“Hopefully we can now look forward to moving on,” he said. 
To help support growers, the industry is rolling out its Spooky Pines initiative.

The promotion presents an uniquely ‘Aussie’ take on the Halloween tradition by encouraging families to pick a pineapple instead of a pumpkin to carve this year.

A boost in sales this October would be a huge help to local growers who have been hit by several years of adverse and unprecedented extreme weather events, drastically affecting their crops.

Anthony Dobson, from Tropical Pines, said the challenges over the past few years had collectively put a strain on the industry, with many growers only just starting to come out of financial hardship now.

“We are now seeing the light at the end of the tunnel with normal supply due to return in October, just in time for Halloween. We’ve seen a great take up of our Spooky Pines promotion over the past few years and we’re thrilled with all the community support for this Aussie Halloween tradition,” he said.

Image: Beerwah pineapple growers, Roy and Ben Stokes.