Australia’s leading grower-packer of stonefruit has noted “excellent” growing conditions this year with exports already underway since last month along with a new partnership.
Cutri Fruit CEO Gaethan Cutri told Fresh Fruit Portal the season had been running “solidly”, while he was upbeat about a joint venture for exports with LaManna Premier Group (LPG) to form LPG Cutri Fruit Global Exports.
“Having the right people enables businesses to grow and become better at what they do – we believe our joint venture has that and will bring this to both our businesses,” Cutri said.
“LPG are exporting in other categories which we see to be a great bolt-on to what we do and now gives both businesses a 12-month offer between fruits and vegetables to customers worldwide.”
He said Cutri Fruit’s farms, which in stonefruit are split between nectarines (45%), peaches (45%) and plums (10%), witnessed great chill hours throughout the winter and were “relatively unscathed by the frosts”.
“Each year we progress down the farming journey we get better at being able to mitigate any potential challenges that arise, so each year seems to feel more manageable than the last,” Gaethan Cutri said.
“The start of the season is usually really challenging in terms of training new staff – some don’t even know what a nectarine is – but we are lucky that we have a lot of returning staff this season who are already familiar with our business, our systems and our products.
“We appear to be three to seven days ahead of last year, however last season was abnormally late.”
He added early season fruit volumes were down on last year, so the group believed sales on the domestic market would likely be strong throughout the remainder of the season, which so far had been “progressing beautifully”.
Cutri mentioned that as a large portion of the company’s plantings were export-focused, they were predominantly made up of white-fleshed varieties in nectarines and peaches. But yellow-fleshed fruit was still on offer.
“There are markets around the world who also just prefer yellow fleshed fruit, so we will export both this season,” he said.
“As we are Australia’s largest grower and packer of stone fruit, we need to export all the fruits that we have, in order to move the sheer volume of fruit. Plus, we don’t want to be pigeon-holed as being only a white-flesh producer.”
The executive also commended industry body Summerfruit Australia for setting the standards of where quality needed to be, following a challenging initial campaign in China a couple of years ago.
“Australia has always been sought after for its clean and green nature, fruit taste and healthful eating experience,” he said.
“We have been exporting to the Asian markets for over 30 years now, so we already know what the needs of the customers are, but it’s been a re-learning experience complying with the specific China protocols, which is something that we cherish greatly so we need to see that it’s done correctly.
“We have had to make some changes in training staff to the expectation and a few changes to how we operate in the orchard, but that’s all just a part of what we need to do. In keeping up with the practices we have implemented we hope to have a fantastic export season into China.”
He clarifies the group will be sending fruit “all over Asia and pretty much every market we have access to”.
“We are always looking to explore new opportunities – having multiple markets means we are never reliant on just one market,” Cutri said.
Cutri Fruit is also starting to see the fruits of its labor in trialing new cultivars, but it is still early days.
“All I can say is that we have some exclusive varieties of super-sweet plums already in the ground, with small volumes available for sampling this season,” he said.
“Their health benefits will rival the likes of the Queen Garnet plums, as well as blueberries and pomegranates. They will be the future of stonefruit.
“We have also delved into avocados, planting up an initial block of 40 hectares which are growing beautifully. They haven’t been in the ground for even two years, and this year we received a small sample of fruit, which were amazingly delicious and had excellent shelf life.”