On The Land

18 March, 2023

‘Unprecedented’ prices during record low passionfruit season

EVERYONE’S favourite pavlova topping has been in short supply over recent years as local and southern passionfruit growers grapple with difficult weather conditions which have pushed prices to nearly quadruple.

By Rhys Thomas

Some of the 400 vines growing on the Barbagallo’s passionfruit farm
Some of the 400 vines growing on the Barbagallo’s passionfruit farm

Floods over the past two years have significantly hindered Northern NSW and southern Queensland growers whilst in the Far North, the wet season and winter combined to produce less than favourable growing conditions.

These low harvest seasons caused a massive drop in the market and skyrocketed the price of passionfruit both for the typically southern grown Sweatheart variety and northern Panama variety.

Local passionfruit grower and Passionfruit Australia secretary Cynthia Barbagallo says farmers are experiencing unprecedented prices due to the record low harvests.

“In the past we have seen one particular area affected by adverse weather and influence prices, if the southern region is affected by floods or weather conditions we can pick up a bit of the market,” Ms Barbagallo said.

Farmers who have been affected by the floods over the past two years have been grappling with pathogens and issues with soil compaction, causing poor harvests.

“Last Christmas there was probably a record low of passionfruit in general and our cold and our wet season combined to make unfavourable conditions,” Ms Barbagallo said.

“Prices have been good especially for the growers who have been able to produce fruit just because of the low yield.

“Last year we had box prices sitting at $180 a carton which is unprecedented, we don’t really see those kinds of prices.”

The high prices were more seen for the Sweet-heart variety however the Panama varieties grown locally and around the Far North went for around $100 a carton when they are typically sold for $35 a carton.

Roughly 60 Panama passionfruits can be packed into a carton however as the southern grown fruits are smaller, they can fit over 100 pieces of fruit into a carton.

Unlike other forms of fruit grown in the Far North, close to all passionfruit grows rip out and replant their vines each season to keep frost from killing them off and to ensure a consistently high yield.

Most growers choose to replant around Christmas to make sure the vines mature in time to produce a good harvest for the lower producing months of September, October and November when the prices are high.

An average passionfruit farm typically has around 5000 vines while some will only have a few thousand and produce other fruit such as mangos.

Ms Barbagallo has a more boutique farm with only 400 vines, just enough for herself and her husband to manage on their own.

Ms Barbagallo said local growers meet a different market than southern growers and due to our warmer winters, they can take advantage of the higher-priced months.

“We meet a market up here that they do not have down south because their vines do not pro-duce for a longer period of time,” she said.

“From Innisfail through to Cooktown we have warmer winters and some of us are lucky enough to get flowering over winter, which doesn’t happen every year but if you are lucky enough to get the winter flowering you can take advantage of the high prices in the later months.”

Other growers choose to grow on an 18 or 24 month cycle and capitalise on the February market, where southern growers are not producing and northern farmers have only recently replanted.

Another reason why growers decide to replant their vines is the Panama varieties can become quite overgrown and are difficult to cut back, leading to issues with fungal diseases and pest infestations.

The vines also become less productive after roughly two years and while they will still produce fruit, the yield is considerably lower.


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