Pineapple lovers are lucky to enjoy a glut of tropical fruit at a cheap price as the crop ripened prematurely after an unseasonal winter rain in Queensland.
The cold and wet snap in the sunshine state is expected to result in millions of pineapples—or 70 percent of the annual crop ripening all at once instead of spreading out all year round like usual.
It is the first mass natural flowering event in 50 years.
Samuel Pike, a fourth-generation pineapple grower, said farmers were racing with the time and encouraged Australians to help with the glut.
“Usually, a crop would spread out over eight to 10 months, but it’s pretty well all going to come within two weeks,” he told AAP.
“There’s going to be a lot of pineapples around, it’s going to be good quality, and it’s going to be probably cheaper than you would normally see it.”
But the surplus will be short-lived as most of the pineapples would be too ripe within weeks.
“Soon, they’ll be very scarce and probably quite expensive,” Pike added.
Many pineapple growers will be unable to pick their crops in time, forcing farmers to plough entire fields of rotten fruit back into the ground.
“Take advantage of our misfortune and load up on a few pineapples, cut them up and put them in the freezer and keep them for the rest of the year,” Pike said.
Rachel Chambers, chief executive of industry group Growcom, said the prematurely ripened crop would come at a loss to farmers.
“The plants will just get chopped up and returned to the earth,” she said.
“There’re no imported pineapples; we don’t export the pineapples, so basically, Australian consumers are the only chance we’ve got.”
Chambers urged Australians to add pineapples to their shopping list and “eat through as many pineapples as they can.”
Large Domestic Industry
Australian pineapple production’s value was estimated to be A$47 million (US$33 billion) in 2018-2019, according to Plant Health Australia, the national coordinator of the government-industry partnership for plant biosecurity in Australia. The industry predicted that in 2020 about 49,577 tonnes of fresh fruit and 21,056 tonnes of processed fruit were marketed.
“The farm gate value for fresh fruit is A$1,140 per tonne (US$802), and the average price for processed fruit is A$366 (US$257) per tonne,” Plant Health Australia said on their website.
“Australia produces less than one per cent of the world’s fresh pineapple but supplies almost the entire domestic market.”
Australian pineapples are mostly grown in Queensland, with most of the pineapple enterprises locate in south-east Queensland (particularly the Sunshine Coast hinterland, Maryborough and Wide Bay areas), the Yeppoon area and North Queensland, including Mareeba and Mossman. A small number of pineapples are now also grown in the Northern Territory.
Consumers Continue To Suffer From Rising Food Costs
It comes as good news for consumers who continued to face rising fruit prices after a rolling sequence of natural disasters, skyrocketing fuel and fertiliser costs, and the lack of migrant workers each had a cumulative effect on the prices of fresh fruit and vegetables.
Last year, floodwaters inundated some of Australia’s most productive agricultural land in New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania.
Australia’s annual food price inflation during the last three months in 2022 climbed to 9.2 percent, which is the highest level since Q3 2006 amid robust consumption during the festive season and a reopened economy after the pandemic, according to Trading Economics.
Compared to bread, oils and fats and dairy products, costs grew at a softer pace for other cereal products (13.1 percent vs 13.2 percent); fruit (12.6 percent vs 14.6 percent); beef and veal (8.6 percent vs 9.3 percent); and vegetables (5.7 percent vs 17.2 percent).
AAP contributed to this article