Malaysian imports could derail Australian pineapple industry
Australia's canned pineapple industry has diminished in recent years after imports were opened up to the processed fruit. Now the country's fresh pineapple industry fears the same fate with potential approval for Malaysian imports.
Australia's largest pineapple producer says Malaysian imports could threaten producers economically and cause unprecedented disease problems.
Piñata Marketing director Stephen Scurr told www.freshfruitportal.com small growers were already facing difficulties, but imports could cause serious problems for the bigger players too.
"It's very hard nowadays in Australia as you see a lot of smaller growers have pulled the pin unfortunately - they're usually the first to go," he says.
"It's a bit of an unknown - if they can bring it at half the cost it might not be worth growing anything. It could be a shut up shop scenario, not just for Piñata but for the whole industry in Australia.
"We can’t compete against them on the labor issue when we need to pay AUD$23 (US$23.59) or AUD$24 (US$24.61) an hour, and in Malaysia they can do it for maybe AUD$3 (US$3.08) or AUD$4 (US$4.10) an hour."
Piñata itself has witnessed moderate pineapple growth in recent years with production now ranging between 8,000 metric tons (MT) and 9,000MT despite weather challenges.
"We've been through many wet years and dry years and now we're going into a wet cycle - they do make it challenging and with the different varieties we grow now, they're more susceptible to rots and funguses, so in the wetter years you have more challenges with the better quality fruit unfortunately," says Scurr.
"The industry in general probably has diminished - Golden Circle used to produce 150,000MT of tinned pineapple and that's probably down to about 45,000MT to 50,000MT."
Piñata has plantations on Mareeba in North Queensland and on the Sunshine Coast north of Brisbane, which could also face a biological threat if Malaysian imports bring disease.
"We’re concerned about diseases which we don’t have at all in Australia but are in a lot of countries. If there’s no control for it then it’ll affect fruit quality and growing conditions in Australia."
Photo: Australian Tropical Foods