Tomatoes sourced

Bowen-Gumlu growers feeding the nation


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Bowen growers Jamie and Melita Jurgens with their organic tomatoes. Photo: Scott Radford-Chisholm.

Bowen growers Jamie and Melita Jurgens with their organic tomatoes. Photo: Scott Radford-Chisholm.

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Tomatoes will be back on the menu as Bowen growers gear up to start their harvest.

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TOMATOES will be back on the table in households across the nation as Australia's winter food bowl nears harvest time.

The Bowen-Gumlu region produces up to 90 per cent of all of tomatoes and capsicums needed for the Australian market during September and October, and harvest is soon to commence.

While dry conditions in the major southern tomato growing region of Stanthorpe saw a shortage of the fruit over summer, pushing supermarket prices spiraling upward of $9/kg, Bowen growers have been battling the opposite extreme.

Bowen-Gumlu Growers Association President Carl Walker said wet weather had hampered the beginning of the season, however most growers would begin harvesting on time in May or June.

"We start planting about mid-February, but this year we've had some issues with the weather," Mr Walker said.

"It caused all kinds of grief when yo're trying to do land prep, put plastic down and plants in the ground and it won't stop raining.

"The water was marvelous in some ways, there's top soil moisture the water tables are good and the dams are full, so we're pretty much set for the next couple of years."

Mr Walker said growers needed to receive $2/kg for their tomatoes to recover costs and another dollar or two would be welcome to boost the coffers.

"The adverse conditions we've had down south mean there should be decent prices to kick us off.

"All of us in this region have had two rough years financially, it will be nice to get a bit of a price pick up early in the season, it will certainly help a lot of farmers to meet their financial commitments."

Mr Walker said Bowen was a major producer of tomatoes with one farm alone producing 10 million kilos a year.

Jamie Jurgens, of VJK Produce, has shifted his tomato production to be entirely organic over the last four years.

"We were growing in quite a sustainable way to begin with in conventional cropping so it was not a huge transition to organic.

"We had questions from customers about supplying organic so four years ago we bit the bullet and went the bit extra with what we're doing.

"It is still early days, the organic market is very small compared to traditional."

He also grows green beans, pumpkins and mini capsicums on his Bowen farm.

Mr Jurgens said the wet weather had been challenging, but they were getting out in the paddocks and preparing the land for the next crops to go in the ground.

He planted tomatoes and capsicums in February and will start harvesting next month, which will go until early November.

Pumpkins will be harvested in June and go until Christmas and beans go from June to November.

"It is a a continual harvest for us need continual planting program prepping the land and planting."

Mr Jurgens said most of his produce ends up in the major chains Australia wide, while they also export green beans to New Zealand.

"It has been a challenging couple of years with the weather and the market forces we've had, but this year it looks like crops are getting away well

"Up here the crops are getting away nicely and it looks like a nice supply. As more volume becomes available there will be more consistent prices and will drop back to be more acceptable for the consumer."

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