Future of custard apples changing colour

Ros Smerdon and husband Kerry, a third generation farmer, grow custard apples and macadamias on their two farms at Glasshouse Mountains, Queensland. The farms, which started with Kerry’s grandparents growing bananas and pineapples in the 1950s, eventually moved to growing avocadoes, macadamia and custard apples. Now, the primary focus is on macadamias and custard apples.

Passionate about growing good food, Ros is also the retiring President of Australian Custard Apples, the industry’s peak body, but the passion for good produce and a solid Australian industry remains strong.

It’s obviously not all rosy, “the weather, pests and diseases are some of our biggest challenges. Last year we had around 600 ml of rain in a couple of hours. You can have the best IPM and other practices in place and that one weather happens and there it all goes”, said Ros.

“Another challenge can be compliance. The time spent on compliance adds to the costs of the product and often imported products don’t have the same stringent compliance. That makes the product more expensive for consumers but it all adds to creating a premium product. Consumers need to understand that they are eating a healthy, quality product that has gone through stringent compliance to make it great eating”, she said.

Ros’ love of the custard apple industry is strong. “You can’t overstate the satisfaction and pride you feel when you pack a tray of custard apples that look magnificent. That feeling that you’ve worked really hard on that crop to get it off the tree and into a box and they look awesome.

“And while custard apples is such a small industry, it has such a committed team of researchers and people willing to contribute to the industry. For a small industry, it’s successfully punching above its weight for what it’s achieved.

“For example, CADS (Custard Apple Dispatch System) is exceptional. You can enter your raw data straight in and extract valuable statistics, see your gaps and plan the future.

“Further, the breeding work with DArT markers (Diversity Arrays Technology) has helped make breeding much more efficient. And if the research into developing a new red variety, which also identified a couple of new green varieties, comes to fruition, that will be exciting,” she said.

And Ros’ thoughts on the future: “It is absolutely bright but we must ensure a sustainable industry by giving consumers a great eating experience and ensuring a strong supply chain and good cool chain so that custard apples are arriving in great quality. But we also need to educate consumers on appearance and fruit quality. Custard apples, like any fresh produce aren’t always perfect on the outside. A blemish on the surface doesn’t mean they aren’t perfect inside – they’re still good eating and that’s what’s important”, she said.