Apples (Malus domestica) are one of the most widely grown tree fruits in the world and have been cultivated in Asia and Europe for thousands of years. The apple tree originated from Central Asia where its wild ancestor Malus sieversii, can still be found.
Apple trees are deciduous and can be grown as large trees (if grown from seed) or as smaller trees (if grown using clonal rootstock). There are more than 7,500 cultivated varieties of apples with a range of characteristics. Different varieties are grown for various tastes and uses, including eating fresh, cooking and juicing. Apples are also referred to as a pome fruit which is characterised by a core of several small seeds surrounded by a tough membrane. All pome fruits are members of the plant family Rosaceae which includes pears and quinces.
Australians consume around 8.9 kilograms of fresh apples per person per year and the majority of Australian apple production is for fresh fruit consumption with about a third of production used for processing into juice and other products. Australia is a minor exporter of apples with only 1% of production being exported overseas to the United Kingdom, Asia, New Zealand and Canada.
Apples are generally grown in the same regions as pears and have similar agronomic requirements. Apples are an autumnal fruit harvested throughout autumn. The apple industry is relatively stable in Australia, with almost all of production being consumed domestically. Combined, the apple and pear industry is the largest fruit industry in Australia worth more than AU$566 million at the farm gate. Organic apples are also a growing market with apples one of the highest volume organic fruits grown in Australia.
The representative body for apple growers in Australia is Apple and Pear Australia Limited who provide support to growers through providing tools and market opportunities to assist industry growth and increase competitiveness of both apple and pear growers. Horticulture Australia Limited (HAL) invests in and manages research, development and marketing programs for apples. Apples are a levied industry and HAL receives matched funding from the Commonwealth Government up to 0.5% of the industry’s GDP or the industry contribution which goes to funding for research and development.
Facts and figures
- Australia produced just under 300,000 tonnes of apples in 2012-13 with almost all of this consumed domestically
- Pink Lady is the most widely grown variety, followed by Granny Smith and Gala
- Intensive orchard systems require planning and can have extensive establishment costs but can reach first commercial harvest within 1-2 years
- Orchard grown fruit require reliable access to good quality water for irrigation
Apple production in Australia was just under 300,000 tonnes in 2012-13. Around 200,000 tonnes was for fresh consumption while the remainder went to processing and juicing.
The majority of apple production is in Victoria which produces about 46% of Australian production, followed by New South Wales at 15%, Queensland at 11%, Western Australia at 11%, Tasmania at 9% and South Australia at 8%.
The number of apple growers has declined since 2000 which is believed to indicate a consolidation where smaller scale growers are leaving the industry and medium and large scale growers are taking over their production.