Secrecy shrouds dark apple moniker

Brad ThompsonThe West Australian
Agriculture and Food minister Ken Baston with Fruit West Co-operative Ltd chairman Ben Darbyshire and Department of Agriculture and Food WA director general Rob Delane with the new apple that's been developed in WA through 20 years of breeding and testing.
Camera IconAgriculture and Food minister Ken Baston with Fruit West Co-operative Ltd chairman Ben Darbyshire and Department of Agriculture and Food WA director general Rob Delane with the new apple that's been developed in WA through 20 years of breeding and testing. Credit: The West Australian

The State Government is under growing pressure to put a name to the apple touted as the next big thing in WA agriculture.

Dubbed the black apple during development, it remains without a name to promote it to the world despite 85,000 trees planted last winter starting to bear a small amount of fruit.

Local growers have high hopes that the eye-catching apple can replicate the success of WA's famous Pink Lady variety which is grown under licence in more than 30 countries and earns lucrative royalties.

They are becoming increasingly frustrated with the delay in naming the black apple four years after it was introduced to leading industry players by the Department of Agriculture and Food WA research team at Manjimup.

DAFWA, through the WA Agricultural Authority, has licensed the Fruit West Co-operative to plant, market and export the apple. A royalty of $2 will flow back to DAFWA for every tree sold.

FWC also has a memorandum of understanding with the Craig Mostyn Group to export the fruit.

With some of the fruit now being picked, FWC chairman Ben Darbyshire said potential growers were visiting orchards to see and taste the deep burgundy coloured apple with a distinctive flavour.

"We have just had a very successful field day in Manjimup. About 40 people attended, including one grower from the Eastern States," Mr Darbyshire said.

"We are all anxiously awaiting an announcement on a name for the apple."

Most of the trees distributed last year were planted in the South-West but some are being grown at Batlow in NSW. There are another 40,000 trees available for planting this year and a bigger number will be put on the market in 2016.

Industry sources said excitement about the apple officially referred to as ANABP 1 was being tempered by a reluctance to plant trees with no name.

Growers expect to pick about a tonne of fruit this year which FWC will use in tastings to promote the apple.

The apple is expected to appear on shop shelves next year. The ultimate responsibility for naming the apple rests with DAFWA director general Rob Delane. It is understood DAFWA has a short-list of names, but it could not give a time frame for making a final decision.

The apple was kept under wraps until last year so it could be assessed and the intellectual property rights locked away.

It is the result of 20 years of research by the same dedicated team that developed the Pink Lady and Sundowner varieties.

DAFWA is working on plans that could turn the apple breeding division into a commercial entity operating along the lines of InterGrain, a joint venture between the State Government, Monsanto and the Grains Research and Development Corporation.

It is understood DAFWA favours a for-profit rather than not-for-profit model for the apple breeding division, but has not decided on the shareholders.

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