Rare fruit offers common ground to current and new growers alike

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Dried Jujubes

Jujubes might not be a commonly recognised fruit in Australia – but according to South Australian jujube grower Graham Brookman, he’s got a 100% success rate of selling the fruit to a first-time jujube taster.

“We take our produce to the local farmers markets of a weekend and as soon as someone tastes a jujube they love it instantly – it’s a very enjoyable fruit and I’m yet to come across anyone who doesn’t agree that they are delicious,” he said.

Also known as a Chinese date, the jujube is an edible oval drupe that grows on a small deciduous tree or shrub naturally reaching a height of anywhere between five and 12 metres tall.

The fruit varies in size depending on the cultivar, and it has a thin, dark red skin surrounding a sweet, white flesh that can be eaten fresh, dried or processed, but is commonly sold fresh or dried through local markets and Asian supermarkets across Australia.

The jujube industry in Australia is currently small, with just 60 growers nationally but Graham Brookman said it’s ready to grow – with demand for the fruit ever present.

“It’s a crop that gives you multiple products that we’ve found it easy to find a market for,” he said.

“We haven’t had to pursue value adding for survival either but that’s an avenue that’s very much open to growers, especially those exploring the health benefits of the jujube.”

Jujube contains vitamins, minerals and antioxidants and is rich source of vitamin C and B-complex and research shows that the antioxidant capacity of fresh jujube is also relatively high compared with other vegetables and fruits. Dried jujubes are also widely used in Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Whole of industry approach required

It’s just one of the aspects of the fruit that industry is looking to promote as part of the recently launched Australian Jujube 2030 Strategic Blueprint | AgriFutures Australia

Author of the Strategic Blueprint, Trevor Ranford, Executive Officer of the Jujube Growers Association and he said the Blueprint offers direction to the industry to move forward together.

“Currently the industry is typical of most small, emerging industries in that each individual grower has developed their own way of producing and conduct their own research and development, or sometimes with others in their own region or state,” he said.

 

“The Blueprint has developed a framework for the industry to build a strong, national structure and really move past the silo mentality.

“Emerging industries take time to prove themselves but I’m confident that once the growers are working to a formalised structure, we’ll be able to achieve some amazing things over the next one to

Stable crop offers range of benefits

The product has been grown in Australia for more than 20 years and offers entry growers good return on investment as trees will yield a crop within the first three years.

Combined with their ability to grow well in a variety of soils and proven success in all mainland states and territories in Australia, Graham Brookman said the jujube is a stable crop for both new growers and those already in horticulture looking to diversify.

“It has good tolerance to drought and salinity and overall management is quite easy too,” he said.

“Farmers or growers of other produce who have an area of land that isn’t being used should definitely consider this crop as an option. We are seeing more grape and almond growers not renewing certain parts of their vineyards or plantations and putting jujube trees in instead with good return on investment.

“We’re seeing a lot of innovation and trials with those planting new orchards too. Some are conventional wide spaced, some are intensive, some are super intensive and there’s those trialing sheltered growing structures to keep birds and hail off the crop. It’s an exciting time to see these trials come to fruition that will offer better data over the coming years.”

Trevor Ranford believes the future is bright for the sector and he’s committed to meeting the nine priorities set out in the Blueprint to come to fruition by the end of 2030.

“We are keen to pull all the different elements together to support current growers, attract new ones and most importantly, start a genuine conversation with the consumer about what is so great about this fruit,” he said.

For more information about the AgriFutures Emerging Industries Program, visit: agrifutures.com.au/emerging-industries

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