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Production of the Bravo apple, a new Australian variety famous for its dark burgundy skin and sweet flesh, is tipped to jump one million kilograms on last year.

Key points:

  • Industry hopes to produce 50,000 tonnes of Bravo apples annually by 2035
  • Recent changes has seen more uses for second-grade Bravos
  • New export licenses have been granted for Indonesia and the Middle East

But industry players say the variety still has a long way to go in reaching longer-term production targets of around 50,000 tonnes per year by 2035.

About 3,000 tonnes of first-grade fruit will be branded and sold on supermarket shelves under the Bravo label in 2021 — about 45 per cent more than the previous season as plantings grow and trees mature.

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Bravo national development manager Sean Engelbrecht said despite the significant growth year-on-year, production was still in its infancy.

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“I would say at this point we’re at our lowest point of production,” he said. 

“There’s more work to be done in terms of meeting that final target.

“We need to get commercial, large scale growers invested into the variety, which we feel is looking positive.”

The Bravo variety was first released by the WA government for commercial planting in 2014 and is known for its dark red skin and sweet flavour.

More fruit, less waste

The WA government, which owns the variety, recently lowered colour specifications for first rate fruit amid concerns from growers that too much product was going to waste.

Mr Engelbrecht said the changes would likely amount to 5-10 per cent increase in pack-out rates this season compared to 2020.

Pomewest president Mark Scott said the revised standards would mean better returns for growers and more fruit on shelves.

“Now the revised specs will allow growers to get more back without impacting eating quality to the consumer.

“It will give growers far more confidence in the variety longer term. Anything which improves the growers’ bottom line and encourages them to reinvest and plant more of it and help to service export markets.”

Total production is expected to reach between 4,000-4,500 tonnes this year, meaning around a quarter would not meet first grade specifications.

Under the changes, there are also more allowable uses for second grade fruit to be sold as Bravo.

“In previous seasons we’ve had to limit that to the general public, so food processors and mining camps – non-retail and non-metro,” he said.

This season we have approval to sell them into retail in metro, provided it’s in a pre-pack form if its going into the same store as loose Bravo.

“This year there’s been a significant increase from both a specifications point of view but also from the allowable uses on those specifications for both premium and class two fruit.”

Fruit growing strong

Tom Sheehan grows apples at Donnybrook, about two hours south of Perth.

He said despite teething issues, he was becoming more satisfied with the variety each season.

“I think getting the hang of growing it will be the secret,” he said.

“As the apple progresses I’m becoming a fan and I’m all for planting more.

Bravo colour specifications have been lowered after growers raised concerns that that initial cosmetic requirements were too high, resulting in low pack-out rates.

From trees to overseas 

Mr Engelbrecht said the growing volume and increasingly stable production has enabled industry to establish new export markets in the Middle East and South-East Asia.

The WA government hasapproved shipments to Singapore, Dubai, Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Thailand.

Mr Engelbrecht said about 15 per cent of this year’s crop would be exported but was a growing proportion of the market.

“Export has increased year-on-year by about three-fold so it still represents quite a low percentage of our total split, but the increase has been quite aggressive over the last three years,” he said.

“This is our sixth commercial season. It’s only now that we’re starting to get enough volumes for supermarkets overseas to make an arranged offering and to get traction on it.”

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