Improving Sweet Cherry Fruit Quality
For all cherry producers in Australia, quality of fruit is the largest driver of returns. For Tasmanian growers, this is especially true due to greater emphasis on export markets. Many global competitors have increased production and greatly improved fruit quality and as such, achieving these premium returns demands that the greatest quality be presented to the consumer.
Tasmanian growers produce cherries that are highly sought after globally and enjoy an almost unmatched reputation, however current packing practices and cold chain management are still far from perfect.
Many packing lines around the world use increased automation to reduce the cost of labour during processing. The size of most Tasmanian operations ensures that implementing automated packing lines of this scale is impossible. Rather than focusing solely on reducing labour costs, producers would be most benefited by making efforts to improve the overall quality of their fruit to increase returns.
Several improvements can be made to current fruit handling systems to improve fruit quality and increase shelf life. Many of these require financial investment or costly modifications to packing lines but much improvement can be made by placing a greater emphasis on quicker cold chain initiation.
Current packaging used by the Tasmanian cherry industry is incompatible with most post-packing cooling processes used globally. To achieve similar results, boxes will need to be redesigned to include vents, allowing for these processes to take place.
The future of the Tasmanian and greater Australian cherry industry looks promising although significant challenges will be ever present, and producers will need to maintain vigilance and continuously work towards achieving a high-quality product.
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