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Home cooks help drive resurgence in dried apricot production

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Home cooks help drive resurgence in dried apricot production

One of Australia’s largest dried fruit companies is expanding its apricot production to meet increasing demand from consumers. 

Key points:

  • Angas Park is redeveloping 40 hectares of apricot orchard in the Riverland
  • The company is planting new varieties that have a higher yield
  • There has been a decline in apricot plantings in recent decades

Angas Park Co, owned by Sunbeam, is redeveloping its apricot orchard in South Australia’s Riverland with newer, higher-yielding varieties and increasing its intake from growers.

Multiple La Nina weather events have affected stone fruit yields this season, with some growers reporting losses as high as 100 per cent of their crop.

Supply manager David Swain said Angas Park Co was looking to renew its apricot plantings amid a reinvigorated market. 

“We’ve got a 40 hectare property at Pike River and we’ve had apricots planted on that for 25 years, but they’ve come to the end of their useful life span,” he said. 

Mr Swain said new varieties of apricots, developed by the South Australian Research and Development Institute, were more efficient and profitable.

“They have a lower dry ratio, so what we’ve got is a firmer, larger fruit that can withstand a lot more handling, and a tighter window as far as maturity goes,” he said.

A man's hand holding three dried apricots

Mr Swain says there is demand for the majority of the dried fruit range.(ABC Rural: Eliza Berlage)

Mr Swain said the company hoped to attract supply from growers by increasing the price paid for apricots. 

“To give good strong indications to our farmer base our apricot price lifted by 10 per cent this year,” he said.

“The highest [price paid for] apricots was up around $11,000 a tonne.

“Up until now prices have been steady but with this resurgence in the market we’re seeing a real demand for it and we’re putting our money where our mouth is.”

With the wine industry facing a difficult vintage amid China’s tariffs on red wine, Mr Swain said apricots presented a viable crop for farmers looking to diversify. 

“When we’re talking wine grapes and other commodities, apricots will stack up very well against them,” he said.  

A photograph of a plot of land with trays of apricots drying in the sun

Angas Park is redeveloping 40 hectares of apricot orchard in the Riverland. (Supplied: Angas Park)

Trend reversal 

Summerfruit Australia chief executive Trevor Ranford said the expansion was good news.

“It’s an industry within the stone fruit group that declined over a period of time because of the lack of demand, and the poor return on dried and fresh apricots,” he said.  

“But I think there’s always an opportunity for growers if the market is redeveloped.” 

Mr Swain said the increased appetite for dried apricots was outstripping supply and it was being partially being driven by home cooks. 

“I think on the back of the [COVID-19] pandemic people have been looking for products, which are more long-term pantry stable and there’s been a resurgence in home baking as well,” he said. 

“The amount we can actually sell is as much as three to four times as much as Australia is actually growing at the moment.”

Source : ABC News (AU)

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