There are three main berry industries in Australia. The strawberry industry is the most significant, blueberry intermediate and the various Rubus species smaller. Production and sales of these fruit are steadily increasing, reflecting global trends in berry crops and the interekjbst in their benefits to human health.B
Blueberries are a native fruit of North America. The species comes under the genus Vaccinium which includes around 450 evergreen and deciduous shrubs. Three varieties of blueberry species have been identified; Highbush, Lowbush (wild) and Rabbiteye. Highbush varieties can be broken down into either Southern Highbush or Northern Highbush. Lowbush blueberries are not generally found in Australia.
Australian blueberries were first grown commercially in Victoria in 1974.
The Australian Blueberry industry has a large number of growers ranging in size from small farms to large multi-site agribusinesses. Blueberries are grown in New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania, Queensland, South Australia, and Western Australia enabling year-round production and supply to consumers, although there are significant peaks and troughs in supply resulting in large fluctuations in price across the year, as with most fruit products.
Blueberry production is centred around Coffs Harbour and this is where the majority of production occurs across the summer months. Other production areas include WA, SA, Queensland, Victoria and Tasmania to provide almost year-round availability of blueberries.
By 1978 it was recognised that the warmer climate Southern Highbush and Rabbiteye varieties (originally grown in the southern states of America) would grow on the NSW North Coast and produce high value, early season fruit. These varieties are harvested from June to February. In southern Australia, most of the blueberry production is based in Victoria (mainly in the Yarra Valley) and in Tasmania. The season starts in December and ends in April.
The warmer areas of Australia grow Southern Highbush and Rabbiteye (low chill) varieties while the cooler areas and areas that experience frost grow Northern Highbush (high chill) varieties.
The continuing development of new varieties, suited to specific climatic zones, is enabling the industry to dramatically expand production in areas outside of northern NSW, which will lead to more fruit being available outside of the traditional summer availability window. Blueberry production has increased from 5,500 tonnes in the year ending 2014 to 17,000 tonnes in the financial year ending June 2018.
Production in southern Australia and Tasmania is also increasing. With a growing interest in organic produce from consumers, a significant percentage of members are now certified as Organic or Bio-Dynamic; particularly in Victoria.
The strawberry, as we know it, was originally grown in northern Europe, but species are also found in Russia, Chile, and the United States.
Strawberries are grown all year round in all States of Australia. As well as extending “traditional” summertime production in temperate climates from October through to May (through the utilisation of different varieties and planting techniques), the diversity of Australian climate enables June-September production in warmer or sub-tropical climates.
An estimated 620 growers are involved in the industry though the industry is growing. Production is concentrated in coastal regions, namely the Sunshine Coast area of QLD, the Camden region of NSW, the Yarra Valley region in Victoria, the Adelaide Hills, SA, and Wannaroo and Albany in WA.
The combination of production across most states provides a year-round national supply, primarily as fresh fruit for the retail or hospitality market. Most Australian fruit is marketed in punnets, bearing the name of the business on the label. Due to the inconsistency in flavour that varieties can have across a season, and the fact that consumers are generally not familiar with strawberry variety names, varietal information has not usually been displayed on labels.
There are multiple variety’s of strawberry’s grown across the country.
Large in size, conical shaped fruit, bright red in colour, high sugar and moderate acid level. Spring-summer and autumn to early winter.
Named after the Aboriginal word for beauty, Large in size, conical shaped fruit, bright red and glossy. Available from October to June.
Big flavour and aroma.
October to January.
produces the most delectable fruit when grown
in warmer districts. Large in size, conical shaped fruit
October right through to June.
A new variety released from the breeding
program in 2006.
best both in appearance and flavour but not productive. There are practically no grading losses as these plants produce only a few select flowers per truss.
October to January.
Highly rated for the best combination of
taste, juiciness, aroma and appearance.
Glossy, extremely large and has a good low acid sweet flavour.
Deep red large size fruit, with a solid red
core and sweet taste when ripe.
mid-October to January.
- Rubygem– (Queensland Variety)
Fruit production commences very early and continues throughout the season. Fruit are firm, moderately dark red, attractive, short conical to slightly wedge in shape. Flesh is dark red, of medium acidity and very good flavour.
Pineapple “fruit” is technically a mass of individuals berries fused to a central stalk. So, technically speaking, pineapples are actually considered a berry.
The pineapple is the only edible member of the bromeliad family, which contains about 2,500 known species, almost all originating from Central and South America. Westerners first saw pineapples in 1493 on the island of Guadeloupe during Christopher Columbus’ second voyage to “The New World”.
In Australia, Pineapples are mostly grown in Queensland. The major growing regions south-east Queensland (particularly the Sunshine Coast hinterland, Maryborough and Wide Bay area), the Yeppoon area and North Queensland, including Mareeba and Mossman. A small number of pineapples are now also grown in the Northern Territory.
Growers choose to grow a mix of varieties to help to ensure high quality, year round supply for consumers. Also, Growers often cut off the tops of some pineapple varieties with the intention to re-plant for the next crop.
Predominant the fresh market variety due to its abundant supply and is the traditional canning variety grown by many producers. However, it has low demand and will probably be phased out of the winter fresh market as other better quality varieties become available.
Also sold as Bethonga Gold and Golden Circle Gold. It is slightly sweeter than Smooth Cayenne with a moderately lower acidity, highly aromatic flavour, more yellow flesh and substantially higher vitamin C level. Peak flavour is usually attained in fruit harvested from September to December but translucency can be a problem between August and September. While flavour is usually good in summer in South East Queensland, it can be a little bland (low in sugars and acidity) if not grown well. In winter in south east Queensland it is good but can be slightly too acid in cold locations.
Slightly sweeter than Smooth Cayenne but with a similar acidity. The flesh is more yellow than Smooth Cayenne and slightly more fibrous but with a very high vitamin C content. It is moderately susceptible to translucency. MD-2 tastes good in summer (September to April) in south east Queensland but is generally too acidic for winter production. At Mareeba in north Queensland, it is sweet enough all year.
Queen varieties (Alexander, McGregor, Ripley Queen)
A smaller sized fruit and the flesh has a crunchy, fibrous texture with high total soluble solids and moderate acidity
Several other varieties are marketed in very small quantities. These varieties will either remain insignificant or go completely out of production as other varieties become available.
More recently the industry has developed several newer varieties. These are designed to be very sweet and have low acidity. They are excellent to eat in the cooler months and can be found in stores across Australia without their tops or crowns attached.
New varieties from Hawaii have been brought in (in the 1980s) and breeding programs continue to this day that select for the most aromatic and delicious fruit and a variety of other useful traits, like disease resistance and vigorous growth.