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Insights March 2021

8 March 2021 |Horticulture
Workers in the field

Insights March 2021

8 March 2021 |Horticulture
The March update provides an analysis of production and pricing trends for Australian horticulture producers.

Overview:

  • Australian fruit and vegetable growers have lost over $50 million in produce nationally as the seasonal labour shortage continues into March.
  • WA banana producers have seen a production boost thanks to humid conditions and plenty of rainfall over the past three weeks.
  • Onion production and quality have both been strong this season following mostly mild summer conditions across eastern and southern parts of Australia.

Growers across the country are continuing to struggle to harvest their produce with over $50 million of fruit and vegetables lost nationally. These crop losses have been primarily due to the shortage of seasonal labour within the horticulture industry which continues to worsen, with international backpacker numbers within Australia now under 50,000, significantly below the 140,000 backpackers living and working in Australia prior to COVID-19.

Fruit
Banana producers across Western Australia have seen a significant production boost during peak production period thanks to humid conditions and plenty of rainfall over the past three weeks. Production has doubled from December to almost 6,000 cartons per week. This jump in production has led to an increase in supply to the Perth market with banana prices falling accordingly. Labour shortages remain the largest worry for banana growers with no quick fix on the horizon.

Total berry production has also risen significantly across most of Australia following last year's difficult summer which was impacted by drought and bushfires. Blackberry production has risen by 70 per cent, strawberries by 13 per cent and blueberries by 12 percent to the end of January. Despite this uptick in supply, demand has remained relatively stable with the forthcoming harvest posing a significant challenge due to high level of labour required to complete harvest.

The World Apple and Pear association have forecast strong production increases for Australian apple and pear producers. Apple production is anticipated to increase by 23 per cent while pear production is forecast in rise by 3 per cent, this is primarily due to fantastic seasonal conditions over the summer period.

The season for Shepard avocados has begun in Queensland (the only state to produce this variety of avocados) and is expected to run through to mid-May with a current crop of 70 million avocados forecast. While avocado prices are relatively high, we should see supply continue to improve in the coming weeks which should provide some price relief in the short term. 

Vegetables and Nuts
Onion production and quality have both been strong this season following mostly mild summer conditions across eastern and southern parts of Australia. Harvest has continued to move south with Tasmanian onion producers now beginning to pick their onion crop. Prices have softened due to this additional supply as domestic demand remains slightly tempered with restaurant trade not yet at full capacity. Export demand has also taken a hit with most food service businesses impacted by capacity restrictions to some degree, though onion shortages in parts of India and reported storage issues in Europe may see Australian onions see demand spike in these markets. Australian macadamia production has been forecast to reach over 50,000 tonnes this season thanks to favourable growing conditions, particularly across the larger macadamia producing regions.

 

* tropical fruit includes mangoes, bananas, paw paw, passionfruit and pineapples.
Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), Rural Bank and Ausmarket Consultants.

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