Pineapple support

By Jennifer Kent

STRONG support by retail giants to new technology and grassroots initiatives are all helping local pineapple farmers overcome one of the most challenging seasons in memory.

A mass natural flowering event following heavy rain and cooler temperatures last year saw fruits ripen within weeks instead of over months.

The impact meant tonnes of pineapples were going to waste.

But since then high profile campaigns including Tropical Pines’ Take Two initiative have helped reduce some of that waste.

Likewise large retailers, normally strict on size, have allowed the sale of smaller pineapples to consumers.

At a grassroots level, the QCWA Beerwah jumped at the opportunity to throw their support behind local growers by organising a pineapple cooking contest. 

Tropical Pines’ general manager Anthony Dobson said that the public have been exceptional in throwing their support behind growers, sharing they’ve been buying more fruit overall.

He said that retail partners have been supportive throughout the challenging season, agreeing to sell slightly smaller pineapples than they would otherwise like to sell, which has helped reduce the amount of waste from undersized fruit.

“Our farmers are being as upbeat as they can be, but some are doing it tougher than others,” he said. “It’s hard for a lot of them in south east Queensland, but they’re really making the best for it and trying to get through this year.”

Anthony explained that while this year’s season has dealt out its fair share of trials on top of Covid challenges of previous years, overall plantations for 2024 harvest are looking great. 

“2024 is looking like it will be back to normality, but until then we’re asking consumers to please keep buying pineapples.”

Mr Dobson said that the expansion of Tropical Pines enterprise with a new fruit drying plant set to open in Beerwah in 2024 will ensure pineapple farming remains viable. The facility was announced last year under funding from the Palaszczuk Government’s Rural Economic Development (RED) Grant scheme.  

“There are times throughout the year when supply exceeds demand which results in price deflation,” he said. 

“By turning this excess fruit into value-added pineapple with a 12-month shelf-life, we are able to eliminate those peaks.

Mr Dobson said that the new plant will allow them to process 16,000 kilograms of pineapple per week producing approximately 650 kilograms of dried pineapple.

QCWA Beerwah president Debbie Ives said supporting the pineapple industry was an obvious choice for the charity organisation and the response since the event’s inception has been great. 

“We’re so closely connected to the community so that has helped enable us to respond quickly and create this event to support our local growers,” she said.