Smashing pumpkins

North Queenslanders growing pumpkins for Japanese market

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Pumpkins grown specifically for the Japanese market are being exported out of Queensland for the first time.

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OPPORTUNITY: Bowen Gumlu Growers Association president Carl Walker has planted a variety of pumpkins aimed specifically for the Japanese export market.

OPPORTUNITY: Bowen Gumlu Growers Association president Carl Walker has planted a variety of pumpkins aimed specifically for the Japanese export market.

Pumpkins grown specifically for the Japanese market are being exported out of Queensland for the first time.

Bowen growers are among those planting 'buttercup squash' or kabocha solely for export to Japan, with hundreds of tonnes to be sent abroad later this year.

Bowen Gumlu Growers Association president Carl Walker said Japan provided excellent agricultural export opportunities and the region's growers had been working hard to build relationships with the country.

"Japan only grows about 30 per cent of their own food and every year that is declining as the population grows," Mr Walker said.

"If we can pick up even a small percentage each year, suddenly there's a huge market there for our growers."

Bowen growers were involved in a kabocha trial last year and Mr Walker is one of about five growers in the Bowen area growing the unique squash this winter.

"They put the call out to find more people so I made space. I could see it was a good opportunity for the region to get on board," Mr Walker said.

"We used to call it buttercup squash, it is a special type of pumpkin, one of the best eating pumpkins you'll find - you can roast it, fry it, microwave it - it is incredibly beautiful to eat."

Mr Walker said he had just planted his crop, which would yield over 100 tonnes when ready for picking in September or October, as Japan moved into their winter.

He said while New Zealand and Mexico dominated the pumpkin export market to Japan, there was room for Queensland to capitalise.

"We are keen to work with companies that are enhancing and growing existing markets like Japan."

Two growers on the Darling Downs were the first in Queensland to send a commercial shipment to Japan this month.

Agriculture Minister Mark Furner said the growers had opened the door to the $108 million export market into Japan.

"The first shipment of our product has arrived successfully in Japan - a deal that has been years in the making," Mr Furner said.

"Currently Mexico and New Zealand completely dominate the Japanese kabocha market, but the Queensland government has been working in partnership with our industry and a Japanese importer to carve out a slice of this lucrative trade."

Wismettac vegetables general manager Mr Fumiya said he was pleased by the overall quality of the shipment.

"The Queensland kabocha has very good sugar levels, and this is important to the Japanese consumer as they like kabocha to be sweet tasting", Mr Fumiya said. "We are hoping to do another trial later this year and we see Queensland's supply window fitting in well with our existing suppliers."

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