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Chinese date offers competitive advantage 27 Apr 2015

A little known Chinese fruit has the potential to boost farm profitability and provide Australian farmers with a competitive advantage, according to Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC) Senior Program Manager for Plant Industries, Dr John de Majnik.

Highly sort after in China, the jujube, otherwise known as Chinese date, has the potential to become a profitable agricultural business with demand in both domestic and overseas markets.

Dr de Majnik said while the variety may not be well known in Australia’s domestic market, what really matters is the current high demand in China and the product’s potential growth. He added that detailed information on the fruit, including growing conditions can be found at www.farmdiversity.com.au.

“The jujube is a popular fruit among Chinese consumers and its hardy nature makes it an ideal crop for Australia’s harsh conditions. The jujube tree requires minimal water and has a higher tolerance to salt than most fruit crops,” Dr de Majnik said.

“The tree can adapt to drought conditions and can produce reasonable yields under severe drought.”

He said there are around 60 growers across Australia already taking advantage of the fruits potential with crops grown in Western Australia, South Australia and Victoria, with a jujube association established in Western Australian in 2013.

“Australia’s proximity to south east Asia and its counter-seasonal production to the northern hemisphere provide an opportunity to market product for the increasing demand, especially during festivals,” Dr de Majnik said. “Target markets include China, Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Taiwan.”

Jujube grower and President of the West Australian Jujube Growers Association Inc., Pete Dawson said the export potential of the jujube is “phenomenal”.

“Chinese consumers love the health benefits of the fruit and because Australia is seen as clean and green, jujubes grown here command a premium price, with fresh product selling for anywhere between $10-$20 per kg,” Mr Dawson said.

“Another major advantage is that our production cycle is counter seasonal to China, which means when their trees are dormant ours are full of fruit.”

Mr Dawson said that while the industry is at least a decade off being able to supply the increasing demand in Asia, the popularity in the domestic market has seen price for product almost double in three years.

“It’s amazing how many people know about the jujube and love its taste. Our product literally walks of the trees with many buyers purchasing the fruit before it has been picked to ensure they don’t miss out,” he said.

“While production per hectare depends on planting density and other factors such as soil and climate, growers have reported 40-50kg per tree at full production.”

Dr de Majnik said RIRDC will be allocating R&D funding to the jujube industry that will address increasing production, developing quality parameters, as well as broadening its markets.

“Farmers interested in accessing more information on the jujube or to see if jujube crops would be compatible to their existing farming business should visit the farmdiversity website,” he said.

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