A MOBILE pineapple processing plant could be the solution to future proof North Queensland’s pineapple industry after hundreds of tonnes of the fruit was left to rot due to an oversupply in the market.
NQ Paradise Pines at Rollingstone, about 60km north of Townsville, drew attention to the cause after posting an image on social media of piles of fruit rotting in the tropical sun.
Growers say a bumper growing season had lead to a glut of pineapples at the same time as Golden Circle’s cannery, which processes the smooth cayenne variety, was closed for three weeks over the Christmas period.
NQ Paradise Pines manager Robert Richardson said flexibility and better lines of communication were needed between the cannery, industry and growers to prevent such wastage from occurring again.
“I find it very difficult to comprehend how the cannery which is processing 25,000 tonnes of fruit last year doesn't have communication channels with the industry where both talk to each other,” he said.
“The industry is probably just as much to blame that they didn't communicate that they were going to have this glut of fruit.
“There's fault there on both sides.”
Mr Richardson said the last three weeks of December were traditionally the busiest for the industry and growers would lose money.
”I can't put an estimate on the tonnage lost because a lot of it is still out in the field.
“We had 24 B-doubles of fruit out a week during those weeks, half would be smooth cayene variety, which is going to attract a negative return. That’s a huge financial loss.”
Mr Richardson said the industry needed to be proactive in establishing new ways to reduce waste.
While it was unlikely a permanent cannery would be viable in the North, he said a mobile juicing plant could be.an alternative.
“We could can handle our waste that way, cold press juice for locals and pasteurised for markets around the country. It would be an 100 per cent Australian product,” Mr Richardson said.
He said the mobile juicer could be sent to other growers in their seasons to tackle oversupply, and eliminate waste from unsalable small fruit.
”That type of mobile juicing plant we think might alleviate issues,” he said.
“The industry itself really does have to look at the future and not be overly reliant on an American company with an ageing facility in Brisbane.”
“The whole industry needs to look at other ways to value add.
“We need better communication, some form of processing to get rid of waste that's mobile… we've been pushing buy Australian, so make sure you check your labels.”
Australian Pineapples chair Stephen Pace said he would support the idea for a mobile juicing facility, if there was a market for it.
”It is a good idea, I’m 100 per cent behind it,” Mr Pace said.
“We’ve got to be a bit careful and do our homework to make sure there is an outlet to sell the finished product.”
Mr Pace said the Golden Circle cannery remained vital to the industry and agreed better communication was needed.
He said the best thing consumers could do to help the industry was to buy Australian.
“Consumers are going to dictate to the supermarkets what they stock. If they don’t buy imported fruit and veg in tins, they won’t stock it.”
Mr Pace said several factors had lead to the oversupply.
“We’ve got a bumper crop, bigger volumes in the last four to five years. This year two regions overlapped, with Central Queensland started to get a fair volumes early and ours was a little late so the clash didn’t help.
”There was a lot of good supply for a lot of other produce, like mangoes and stone fruit, they all compete.”
Golden Circle said the cannery had remained open for an additional three weeks in December due to a shortage of fruit in spring, but did not have staff available to reopen to take the surplus Rollingstone fruit.