Sweet times over as region’s pineapples see rough end
PETER Buchanan says there is probably only one serous pineapple grower left in the Gympie region.
And after next week it will not be him.
“Chris Doyle at Dagun is cutting back too,” Mr Buchanan said as he helped with the last harvest of Sandowne pineapples at Goomboorian yesterday.
“We might have half a day’s picking next week and that’s the end,” he said of the business he has helped run for a generation.
“No-one’s big anymore. It’s all just gone.”
Mr Buchanan said he was almost looking forward “to the end of an industry which has been on its knees for too long.
“The staff, the organising, we’ve worked our guts out for next to nothing,” he said.
“We’re hearing a lot about dairying just at the moment, but everyone is having the same problems.
“We have to compete with farmers overseas who can use chemicals banned here and don’t have the environmental concerns about their drainage systems.
“We saw that last year when people got sick eating imported blackberries.”
The Chinese fruit was the common link among people who contracted hepatitis early in 2015, after the berries apparently came in contact with contaminated water or people not practising food standard hygiene.
“And our food labelling laws are so lax,” Mr Buchanan said.
“‘Made from Australian and imported product’ - what’s that supposed to mean?
“Ten or 12 years ago Queensland was juicing 100,000 tonnes a year.
“Now we’re sending 20,000 tonnes to the cannery.
“Non-acidic hybrids have helped us sell more fresh fruit and that has helped the industry.
“This place employed 12 permanents and three partners and up to a dozen casuals all year round.
“That money was all spent and distributed with the multiplier effect everyone knows about.”
Reduced scale for horticulture has brought its own problems, with irrigation shops no longer carrying specialised fittings.
“Now they’re glorified landscape suppliers and we have to order in what we need in advance.
“That means the overdraft gets bigger.
“We’re picking about 500 tonnes of pineapples this year and this will be our last crop.
“That’s down from 5000 to 5500 tonnes in the early ‘80s.
“We have a four-year cycle with two years to the first pick and 18 months later a second pick.
“Then we chip it out and leave it six months.
“We’ll sell the tops in Bundaberg and Townsville.
“This land used to be flat enough for mechanisation, but now you really need to go to Bundaberg to find land flat enough.
“We’re switching to sugar. A contractor comes in and does the work. We’ll have one employee and at least it’s simple,” he said.