Mixed bag for mango growers
They may have copped a battering from Cyclone Debbie, but a glut of mangoes in North Queensland is driving prices down.
The season has thrown up a mixed bag for Bowen mango growers, with production reduced to 50 per cent on some major farms, while others are flourishing.
For Marto’s Mangoes growers Ben and Ash-Lei Martin, it will be a long road to recovery after their 12,500 trees copped the brunt of Debbie’s fury at their Delta property.
“Our farm was hit really hard with the cyclone, there were trees snapped off knee high, there was a huge amount of damage,” Mr Martin said.
“This farm here will be about 60 per cent yield, so overall we’re probably sitting at about 50 per cent of what we should have done.”
Mr Martin said they would produce about 50,000 trays of their R2E2 mangoes this year, when their annual volume should be over 100,000.
The Martin’s Delta property is a high density plantation, with the ability to yield about 50 tonne a hectare.
But with about 50 per cent of their trees snapped in the cyclone, it will take about four years until they were back at full production.
“The last few years the mangoes have been good, so you’ve got to take the good with the bad,” Mr Martin said.
“There’s other farms around here that didn’t get hit as hard as ours so it has increased their crop.
“You’ve got to look at the positives out of it, if you can come out of a year like this with the amount of damage we got and not lose money… well, you know you’re doing something right with the business.”
Mr Martin said nurturing the trees after the cyclone to counter disease had increased costs, with fertigation and chemical bills about double that of a normal season.
However, despite the hardships, he said the quality of their fruit was excellent this year.
“The quality should be there as we've had perfect growing conditions through harvest, we haven't had much rain to speak of through the harvest down this way,” Mr Martin said.
The Martin’s supply fruit directly to Woolworths, markets in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne and export globally to countries including Italy, Dubai, Lebanon, Hong Kong, Singapore, Canada and New Zealand.
The family owned business started in 1990, when Ben’s parents Gary and Bernadette bought the Delta property.
“It was a block of dirt and we’ve got 12,500 trees now,” Mr Martin said.
They started to expand in 2001, when they bought a neighbouring property, then Ben bought a farm in 2007 on Collinsville Road.
“In 2011 we bought another block up the top here, so we’re slowly progressing to where we are today,” Mr Martin said.
“We’re a family operated business and we’re all involved in it. We grow R2E2’s, no other variety and we believe the R2E2 has a really strong future both domestically and internationally.”
They started picking on November 2, about ten days later than usual, and expect to finish harvesting next week.
Mr Martin said pricing was also below average for growers this year, largely due to a backlog in the export market.
Bowen Gumlu Growers Association President Carl Walker said while the cyclone caused a fair amount of damage to some farms in the district, others had flourished which had lead to an oversupply in the market.
“There’s been too much production and the pricing is quite dismal,” Mr Walker said.
“A lot of export markets have closed up a bit and they’re not taking the volume we anticipated.
“Growers are quite disappointed with prices and it’s hard to make ends meet.”
Mr Walker said there may be a lightening of supply toward the end of the week, with prices set to improve in the lead up to Christmas.
“We hope everyone gets in and buys their Christmas mangoes, so producers have a decent end to the season,” Mr Walker said.
“With mangoes, there’s only a small window to make a quid, if you don’t make money out of the crop there’s nothing until next year.”