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Seedless is now best way to grow

Lauren CelenzaCountryman

With a world-class product in a world-class environment, Swan Valley table grape grower Graeme Roscic says life is sweet.

Mr Roscic said WA’s table grape industry had gone through many changes over his 32-season career and education and marketing had been the most valuable.

Since his grandfather started growing wine grapes, table grapes and producing dried fruit in 1926, Mr Roscic said they had slowly moved to concentrate on the “most economic”— the table grape.

“As the population increased, we found consumers became more sophisticated, ” he said.

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“They understand that they need fruit and vegetables in their diet.

“As that increased, so did demand and it’s still continuing.”

Mr Roscic said the biggest change he had experienced in the table grape industry was the whole industry switching to seedless.

“It’s the consumer preference, so we grow it, ” he said.

The third-generation grower has been supplying Woolworths directly for 14 years.

His five hectares of mostly seedless table grapes go from vine to shelf in two days, being kept at a temperature of 0-2C.

Mr Roscic said improved education and marketing had resulted in great changes.

“The older generation would have a ‘them and us’ attitude with the markets, ” he said.

“These days, we are well aware that we have competition with other summer fruits and as a result we have a very good Department of Agriculture and Food.

“The WA Ag Department is world class in its table grape development procedures and are in touch with the leading situation around the world.

“They have been foremost in sourcing American bud material, getting it to work and putting it into the local industry.”

But Mr Roscic said with the new varieties came substantial costs.

“Unfortunately, plant breeder variety rights and royalties must be paid on what we pick each season and that can be by the case or hectare, ” he said. “We also have to market the grapes through a controlled agent who also carries a fee.

“We understand why, because it takes about 20 years of research to develop the variety.”

Mr Roscic said he had been keen on the marketing side of the business since being associated with Woolworths.

“They take some leads from Tesco and Wal-Mart in the US and implement it in their marketing strategies, ” he said. “Rather than trying to reinvent the wheel, I work with Woolworths to market the grapes.”

Mr Roscic’s grapes are harvested in the vineyard and pre-cooled and stored in the cool room, which enables them to have a longer shelf life.

“Even though we only have a two-day turnaround from the vine to the shelf, they last longer and stay fresher, ” he said.

“I’m third party audited each year to keep up with my Woolworths Quality Assurance Standard.

“The trucks that pick up my fruit have to be between 0-2C so there is no way the fruit can heat up.

“Woolworths wants white and red seedless grapes all the way through the season, so if we can do that with an early variety white and red, a mid white and red and a late white and red, we can cater to their needs.”

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