Having the opportunity to lease a block of persimmons in the early ’90s inspired Rod Dalton to plant the fruit on his own farm in Grantham, Queensland.
“I’d had some interest in persimmons, so that gave me the opportunity to learn a bit about them and see whether or not I wanted to grow them. I was looking for another crop to grow and in 1995 I planted my first block of persimmons.”
Rod said he particularly liked the export potential of the fruit. “There were plenty of opportunities, with it being relatively easy to export persimmons into a number of South-East Asian countries.”
Rod’s export program remains a great success. “My focus really does remain on export. I’m still sending 50 per cent of my production into the international market, with some long-term relationships that go back more than a couple of decades.”
Rod purchased his current farm in 1988. At the time it was a stone fruit, avocado and citrus orchard. These days, of the 20 hectare orchard, around a quarter is persimmons and the rest is early stone fruit and fresh figs.
“One of my philosophies is about always spreading my risks,” Rod said. “Growing persimmons spreads my workload and improves my cash flow, and means I can keep my permanent staff employed 12 months of the year.”
Rod said the industry has invested in increasing domestic consumption, and could now do with more new plantings. “This is a bit of a challenge overall but it’s also a positive because we, the early growers, can enjoy some reasonable returns as the supply is somewhat limited.”
He added that international demand for the persimmons means growers have options if the domestic market does experience high supply. “We can switch our focus to export and encourage the price to come up in the other market,” he said.
One thing Rod would like to see the industry is less reliance on seedling rootstocks. “Those rootstocks tend to give us a fair amount of variability in the orchard, so our productivity in many orchards isn’t as good as it could be. It would be a big job but if we could reduce the variability in our rootstocks, we have the capacity to get significantly better production and returns.”
Tackling pests is also high on his priority list. Road has completely enclosed his orchard in hail netting to keep the lorikeets out. “They’ve got a taste for the persimmons. It also reduces insect pressure, particularly from the Queensland fruit fly.”