No ‘gourd’ for farmers as pumpkin prices fall

FIGURES reveal pumpkin growers are facing an uncertain future, of which Gympie grower Kate Groves has already felt the pinch.

Average domestic pumpkin prices have dropped since 2009-10, with average production per farm also falling by 52% from 2008-09 to 2011-12.

The average price received per tonne in Australia was $375 in 2011-12, while production cost was around $610 per tonne.

The 2014 season marked Ms Groves fifth and worst year.

The Mary's Creek farmer always grew her pumpkins during the winter months to supply new season pumpkins during October/November, when there was generally a shortage.

In previous years she made between $800 and $2000 a tonne, but in 2014 she was only making returns of $400 or $500 for her best pumpkins.

Sometimes prices were as low as $200.

"We didn't even make our costs back," Ms Groves said.

"It's been very ordinary.

"The grower goes broke."

Ms Groves said she saw many pumpkins in supermarkets for around $3, when she only received 40 cents a kilo.

The costs for supermarkets were low, she added, and consumers needed to be aware that sometimes they payed more than they should.

"There's a huge disconnect between growers getting payed and what the consumer is paying," she said.

There was also an oversupply of fruit and vegetables, bringing producer prices down further.

"The better the growing season, the less market there is," Ms Groves said.

The situation has made Ms Groves rethink her farm's direction and she will not grow pumpkins again.

In fact, this year's production was supposed to help Ms Groves recover her avocado losses from hail storms last year.

Ms Groves story is one of many.

Goomeri Pumpkin Festival promotions and advertising officer Fay Stumm said grower numbers have been declining for many years.

Mrs Stumm recalled that she started to notice prices had dropped around three years ago.

"One of the fellows who always grows locally had given up (because prices were so low)," Mrs Stumm said.

However, Ms Groves is still hopeful for her avocado season.

She said there was a shortage of avocados in Northern Queensland, which should push prices up.

Gympie Times

Topics:  agriculture

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