Leading Australian pineapple producer Piñata Farms has commenced harvesting its first crop out of the Northern Territory. Around 30,000 trays of Mareeba Gold pines will be yielded from the company’s 10ha Humpty Doo plantation between now and May.
Planted in late 2013, this year’s crop represents the first stage of Piñata Farms’ Top End expansion plan, which is likely to see a further 750,000 plants come into production over the coming seasons. The company is the only commercial pineapple producer operating out of the Northern Territory.
“Once we've picked our first crop, we'll assess how it performs before deciding our forward plan,” said Piñata Farms’ Northern Queensland operations manager, Stephen Scurr. “However, we're fairly confident we'll plant another 750,000 pines later this year for the 2017 season. Our objective with the Northern Territory crop has always been to produce quality-eating fruit to fill a specific gap in our pineapple supply, that is the February to March period. In coming years, we'll aim to extend that to span December to May."
Piñata Farms has leased the Humpty Doo holding through a joint venture with Darwin Banana Farm, which has also provided the workforce for the pineapple harvest.
The Northern Territory production will add to Piñata Farms’ existing plantations in Wamuran, South East Queensland, and Mareeba, North Queensland. Scurr said the company had only made some very minor changes to its growing practices to accommodate Northern Territory conditions.
“Apart from having warmer winters, growing conditions in the Northern Territory are not too unlike Mareeba, which also receives significant rain during summer,” explained Scurr. "Plants are prone to stress in cooler months and produce a flower out of season when the plant is only half grown. In the Northern Territory, plants don't stress as much so there will be very little natural flowering. We will be able to control the flowering by inducing it and produce a more uniform crop when the fruit is at a bigger size.”
Pines from the Northern Territory will be packed on site and freighted to supermarket customers in Darwin, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth, arriving within three days of being picked. Scurr said the Darwin crop would account for approximately 8.5 per cent of Piñata Farms' total annual pineapple output of 350,000 trays.