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Australia: processed quantities could be lower than expected

02/04/2020 - François-Xavier Branthôme - CoViD-19
Harvest is expected to finish around April 20
The processing industry is facing a higher demand due to the Covid-19

According to Australian press, the SPC’s tomato harvest is down 10% this year and the company predicts it will only process about 40 000 tonnes. The fruit and tomato processor is producing so fast to meet soaring demand that it could face running out of stock.

For its part, Echuca-based Kagome, Australia’s largest tomato processor, has been approached by its downstream customers asking for increased supply. Chief executive Jason Fritsch said Kagome would fulfil its own commitments first and review its plans if there was any produce left over.

But with supermarket shelves being stripped bare as soon as stock arrives in stores, the race is on for SPC to service its own major customers. SPC chief executive Robert Giles said the factory was running around the clock and he was confident it was coping at this stage. “We plan to finish processing around April 20, so we’re bringing in stock we had contracted with our farmers,” he said. “SPC has also pulled some of its own lines — taking out crushed tomato and/or herb products — to boost capacity for diced tomatoes”. 

 It had also gone through Coles and Woolworths for access to their growers so SPC could source more tomatoes. Not only is the production line going 24/7, the company has also taken on new staff to cope with the output. Mr Giles said despite restaurants closing, food service sales were up from hotels and nursing homes.

Tomato growers said they could only harvest as much fruit as SPC could process. “Fruit harvesting is going ahead as planned, but rain about three weeks ago delayed things”. Louis Chirnside was also going flat out harvesting to fill trucks and get them to Ardmona. “The SPC factory has a certain capacity and this year will be no different,” he said. “We can be thankful SPC is Australian owned and still operating.”
Mr Chirnside said he was trying to run his business as an essential service but with social distancing, no-one was working shoulder to shoulder. He said he was also concerned by the scale of the panic-buying and its potential to force tomato rationing.


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