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High-tech avocado processing centre at Manjimup opens door to Japanese market


Leading players in WA’s booming avocado industry have opened a high-tech processing centre at Manjimup as they look to meet overseas demand and guard against an oversupply on the domestic market. The $5 million plant, with high-pressure packaging and individual quick frozen capabilities, is suitable for processing a range of fruit and vegetables, as well as meat and seafood.

The Fresh Produce Alliance (FPA), backed by Fonty’s Pool Farms and the Franceschi, Ipsen, French and Solomon families, has been overwhelmed with interest from outside the avocado industry as producers look for ways to make money from second grade fruit and vegetables which now go to waste.

Mrs Franceschi said avocado growers had made big inroads in Japan thanks to Liberal MP Nigel Hallett and WA Japan Trade Commissioner Craig Peacock. She said the on-site visits they organised led to sales of processed product to Japan, where there is no protocol for imports of fresh avocado. Japan now wants frozen avocado from the Manjimup plant.

Jennie Franceschi, who is also heavily involved in related packing and export companies, said she was fielding regular inquiries from China about avocado products. FPA is also developing an avocado banana smoothie for a customer in Singapore.

In addition, Mrs Franceschi sees the potential to provide the aged care sector with healthy and nutritious food made from fresh produce that is sometimes rejected by supermarket buyers because of size and appearance. She said high-pressure packaging could also make use of lower quality meat cuts.

Southern Forest Food Council general manager Jayme Hatcher said her members were excited about the opportunities. WA’s rapidly growing truffle industry and a leading abattoir will also investigate using the plant.

After a decade of rapid growth, it is estimated the avocado industry was worth $150 million to the WA economy in 2014-15. Industry leaders believe WA avocado production could jump from 3.5 million trays (each weighing 5.5kg and currently selling wholesale for about $55) to more than 10 million trays in the next seven years based on new plantings.

Photo: Wayne and Jennie Franceschi with the new packaging system.
Source: The West Australian