JUJUBES may not be recognised immediately by all shoppers, but after three years hard work by the Department of Agriculture and Food WA (DAFWA) and Western Australian growers it is gaining more prominence.
WA growers, with 10,000 established trees, are currently Australia’s leading producer of jujubes.
DAFWA development officer Rachelle Johnstone believes their future is bright.
“Demand continues to outstrip supply with the fruit retailing through specialist outlets for $8-15 a kilogram. Jujubes are mainly sold in Asian grocery stores around Perth and at Famer’s Markets,” she said.
“Jujubes grow and produce well in WA with excellent fruit quality.
“With ongoing research and good promotion, they could become a valuable industry.”
Support from Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC) has enabled a growing guide to be developed using data from orchards at York, Gidgegannup and Bindoon. (Information is available at www.agric.wa.gov.au )
DAFWA has also assisted with the recent formation of the WA Jujube Growers Association.
Ms Johnstone said it should result in a more cohesive industry and assist in improving varieties, marketing and quality control.
Secretary of the new group, Nola Doswell said it has about 40 growers listed with the Association.
“Some are large growers with industry experience, while others have smaller orchards or are new to the industry,” Ms Doswell said.
“The largest grower has just over 600 trees and the smallest grower has 30. The diversity is due to some wanting them as part of their overall income from orchard operations already producing a variety of crops, and the smaller ones are life style property owners looking at adding to their income or investing for their retirement.
“The main aim of the Association is to bring large and small growers together so they can assist each other with ideas, planting regimes, research into potential pests, soil condition, water requirements and plant health.
“Also we aim to incorporate an industry standard for the market so that only our best product is being sold.
“We want to make sure we are hitting the right markets with the right product.
“Asian consumers love the fresh fruit and like to hand pick it from large display bins at their local vegetable shop, where the Western market prefers the fruit pre-packed in clear tubs of around 500g.
“There are also many health benefits to the fruit that need to be investigated so we can look at selling the dried form to health shops.
“Recipe development would compliment this and we are hoping to use local and national chefs to prepare the fruit and to advise on good recipes.”
Progress has brought its own problem with it for the fledgling industry.
Ms Doswell said propagation of young tree stock needs to be increased, as it can take up to 4.5 years before they are ready for planting.
“For the industry to grow we need more people propagating them, this will be looked at during this coming year to see where we may be in two to five years, and whether we have enough trees currently for the demand,” she said.
“In the long term we would love to see the fruit heading off to international markets.”