Major Growing Regions
Apples are grown throughout Australia. Different regions have different climates so some varieties perform better in some areas than others.
NSW is the second highest apple producing state after Victoria (Ag. Commodities, 2015-16) and has a reputation for producing quality fruit from high up on the western slopes of the Great Dividing Range, at Batlow in the south and Orange in the middle of the state. Bilpin is the other noted apple growing area.
NSW has a long history of growing quality apples and indeed, the Batlow name and brand is synonymous with apples in NSW. The cool climate experienced at Batlow and Orange is ideal for apple growing as they require a significant amount of winter chilling to produce good fruit and prefer not to have extreme temperatures during the ripening season. Some of the orchards at Batlow are at 1,000 metres elevation. There are approximately 80 growers in NSW, predominantly centred around Orange and Batlow.
Cripps Pink (marketed as Pink Lady®) and Royal Gala have overtaken Red Delicious as the most widely grown varieties in NSW and a number of new varieties such as Kanzi®, Jazz™ and Bravo™ are being planted.
This region also experiences cold winters and cool summers that produce high quality fruit. The area is blessed with a high rainfall and the orchards store water in on farm dams to irrigate when necessary.
Orange has a competitive advantage in being close to the Sydney market, but being close to Sydney has also put pressure on the region as many orchards have been purchased by lifestyle farmers who have opted to grow grapes and cherries instead of apples.
Batlow is considered by many apple growers to be the premium apple growing region in Australia. It has cold winters and long cool summers that produce clean, crisp apples.
Apples have been grown in Batlow since about 1900 and in 1922, the Batlow Fruit Co-operative was formed to help local growers market their fruit. Today, about half the apples grown at Batlow are marketed through the Co-op, which in 2017 welcomed Ausfarm Fresh Group as a majority holder (63.3pc) and converted to a company – the Batlow Fruit Company. Due to new technology and expertise in the pack house, Batlow Apples-branded apples receive a premium in the market place.
Batlow has long been known for its Red Delicious apples, but is now also producing Pink Lady®, Royal Gala and new proprietary brands including Jazz™, Kanzi® and Bravo™.
 (Ag. Commodities, 2015-16)
The Queensland apple industry is based solely on the so-called Granite Belt around Stanthorpe, on the Queensland/New South Wales border. The region is well named with clearly visible large granite outcrops and balancing boulders from the Triassic age (251-205 million years old). Stanthorpe in Southern Queensland is known for producing crunchy apples.
Stanthorpe holds the record for the lowest temperature recorded in Queensland at -11 °C in July 1895. In winter Stanthorpe is frequently the coldest town in the state with sleet and light snowfalls recorded from time to time. The Granite Belt is therefore one of the few areas in Queensland with a climate suitable for pome fruit production. The area’s elevation of 800-1000 metres above sea level results in a cool summer climate, which is brilliant for growing large and juicy apples and pears.
In 2017 there were approximately 32 apple growers in Queensland, many of whom have farmed in the district for generations and who also grow stone fruit, pears and cherries. The region could be called “Little Italy” because of the large proportion of inhabitants with Italian ethnic origins.
When minerals were found on the Granite Belt large numbers of tin miners moved to the area. The name Stanthorpe derives from the Latin: stannum (tin) and thorpe (village). When tin mining declined in the region the locals started to diversify and people began growing large quantities of stone fruit and grapes. For more detail log onto www.granitebeltwinecountry.com.au.
Apple orchards are located around the northern and western Granite Belt villages of Cottonvale, Thulimbah, The Summit, Applethorpe and Pozieres which are all within 15 minutes’ drive of the heart of Stanthorpe.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (Ag. Commodities, 2015-16), in 2016 Queensland was the third largest apple producer in Australia. The main apple varieties grown in the Granite Belt at present include: Pink Lady®, Royal Gala, Granny Smith and Red Delicious.
South Australia has a long history of apple growing, starting in the Adelaide Hills in the 1860’s. It produces around 10pc of Australia’s apple production, predominantly Cripps Pink (sold as Pink Lady®), Royal Gala, Fuji and Granny Smith, although there is a strong trend towards planting newer varieties of Rockit®, MiApple®, Red Love, Jazz™, Kanzi™ and Envy™, with an estimated 15pc of planted area growing newer varieties in 2017.
South Australian fresh apple exports have been increasing over the past 3 years and processed apple juice and dried apples are also exported.
There are currently about 1.5 million apple trees in South Australia, grown by around 60 apple growers, of which about 40 growers primarily produce apples; the remainder produce apples with other mixed enterprises. Most apple growers in SA (80 percent) have small holdings of less than twenty hectares; the remaining 20 percent farming in excess of twenty hectares. Apple orchards in SA are almost all family-owned and run.
The Adelaide Hills regions is the State’s most important and longest established growing area, with 80 percent of the growers. Centred on the Lenswood Valley, apple growing in this area is characterised by good clay/loam soils and a rainfall of around 1000mm annually. While being of 34 degrees of latitude south it has a climate moderated by around 500m of altitude and South-westerly weather patterns.
The Riverland is an area 250km to the North-east of Adelaide and bordering the Murray River. The area has very low rainfall <250mm and is irrigated solely with water sourced from the Murray River. Soils vary from sand to clay, with apples found on the heavy soils. Because of the climate, the Riverland grows varieties best suited to those conditions and enjoys an early advantage in the marketplace.
The Limestone Coast growing region is centred close to the regional city of Mt Gambier, which is 450km South-east of Adelaide. The area has been relatively recently developed for apple growing. It is a cool growing region with good soils generally and plentiful water.
The “Apple Isle” has built a reputation for premium quality apples, capitalising on its status as one of the world’s few remaining pristine environments, it’s seasonal advantage which enables it to send high quality fresh fruit to Northern Hemisphere markets when local production is not available, and a cohesive industry represented by Fruit Growers Tasmania Inc which ensures consistent quality production and standards.
As an island, Tasmania has a natural quarantine advantage and is recognised nationally and internationally for Area Freedom status for Fruit Fly. The State moratorium on GM means Tasmania is also GM-free. With a beautiful pristine environment, Tasmania is perfect for growing just about any variety of apple.
Fruit Growers Tasmania Inc is a non-profit industry association representing Tasmanian growers. There are approximately 50-60 apple growers in the State with around 90 percent members of FGT. FGT’s operations are funded by a voluntary carton levy paid by growers and collected on the Association’s behalf by the carton suppliers.
The bulk of Tasmania’s apples are now grown in the Huon district (83 percent) south of Hobart. The remainder are produced in the Spreyton (10 percent) and Tamar (7 percent) districts.
Between 30 and 35 percent of the total crop is exported overseas – the main markets being Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia and Philippines. Another 20 – 25 percent is sold interstate (mainly Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne). A further 15 percent of the crop is consumed in Tasmania with the remainder utilised for processing.
Many growers sell direct to the public. Details in Fruitgrowers Tasmania’s Farm Gate guide.
Victoria is the major growing area of apples and pears in Australia. In 2015-16, Victoria produced 43 per cent of Australia’s apples and 89 per cent of the nation’s pears. Victorian orchards produced around 133,028 tonnes of apples in 2015_16 worth approximately $250m.
The main growing regions are the Goulburn Valley, Yarra Valley, Harcourt and southern Victoria (including Mornington Peninsula and Gippsland).
The main varieties of apples grown in Victoria are:
- Cripps Pink (sold as Pink Lady®)
- Granny Smith
- Royal Gala
Home of the Cripps Pink variety (sold as Pink Lady®), now the most widely grown apple nationally accounting for newly a third of production, and more recently the Bravo™ apple, Western Australia has a proud tradition of apple innovation and production.
Apple production is one of the many agricultural industries that thrive on Western Australian soil.
Regions, such as the South West around Manjimup and Donnybrook, and the small towns within, were built around horticulture and the region’s ability to produce superior fresh produce through the cooler night temperatures and warm summer days. Many of the orchardists still operating within WA are fifth or sixth generation with each generation inheriting the farm from their elder relatives after retirement.
There are 120-130 apple growers in WA, predominantly in the south west, but also in the Perth Hills, in combination with stone fruit. In 2015-16 they produced 34,376 tonnes. (Ag. Commodities, 2015-16) The main varieties grown are Cripps Pink, Royal Gala and Granny Smith, but new varieties include Bravo™, Jazz™ and Kanzi™.
Horticulture in Western Australia is celebrated and with the recent creation of a Producer Committee, PomeWest, there are hopes that greater unity will emerge amongst the Pome producers of WA, taking the industry further forward.
Western Australia is known for producing delicious ‘Cripps Pink’ apples (sold as Pink Lady®), the perfect addition to light summer meals. Why not try one of our favourite summer recipes, like this Apple, Chicory and Pecan salad.
Selection and Storage
- Choose apples with firm, smooth skin.
- Keep your apples crisp by storing them in the fridge.
- The Aussie Apple-picking season runs from February to June.
- Between harvests, growers store apples using sophisticated refrigeration to control the atmosphere and slow ripening.
- Good storage means that you can enjoy the taste and health benefits of apples all year round.
Why do you store apples?
Australians like their apples and they want to be able to enjoy them all year round. To satisfy apple eaters, we use different methods of storage to bridge the months between harvests.
Apples are a healthy, whole food, and by enabling Australians to eat them all year round we are doing a great thing for the health of the nation.
What methods do you use?
Cold storage is nothing more than sophisticated refrigeration. Standard air cool stores maintain fruit at between 0 – 1°C, with humidity around 85%. Controlled atmosphere storage maintains the same temperature and humidity regimes as cold storage but reduces the oxygen level and increases the carbon dioxide level to greatly reduce apple ripening.
The SmartFreshTM Quality System is a new technology used in some cold storage facilities, both standard and controlled atmosphere. SmartFreshTM works with nature’s ripening process by preventing the over-ripening effects of ethylene while the fruit is in storage, maintaining apple freshness. It is a development that means we can bring great quality apples to Australians all year round.
Does cold storage affect apple quality?
The methods of cold storage we use today keep the apples just about as fresh as when they were picked. The maturity of apples when they are harvested and the way apples are handled both before and after storage have a much bigger influence on the quality than storage itself. We strongly encourage retailers and consumers to handle their apples carefully and store them in a cool place – preferably in the fridge.
Did you know?
Apple growers and merchants have been extending the life of apples using various methods of storage for thousands of years. In fact, limestone caves were used in France in Roman times and, with their higher levels of carbon dioxide, they can probably be considered some of the first known examples of controlled atmosphere storage.
Apples naturally develop a coat of wax when they are growing to help protect the fruit and to retain moisture and therefore firmness of the apple. Once picked, the apples are cleaned, removing this natural coat of wax. Often, a food-grade wax is applied to replace the naturally-occurring wax to provide the same benefits, including a nice glossy shine.