Bowen mango growers bounce back after Cyclone Debbie
ONE year after Category Four Cyclone Debbie broke limbs and shattered trees on their Bowen mango plantation, the Martin family is back in full production with exports going to countries like Dubai, Lebanon, and Canada.
Their 15,500 tree plantation produces R2E2 for the domestic market as well as overseas. Domestically, their fruit goes direct to Woolworths.
It is a miracle recovery from Debbie which belted the Whitsunday coast with 175km/h winds in March last year. The trees have come back with a vengeance. Science has played a part in the form of nutrient application, but as chairman of the Australian Mango Industry Association Ben Martin said, mango trees are a mystery unto themselves.
"If any grower knows "why mango trees do what they do" he or she would be a millionaire. Maybe they have come back because they have had a year off," he said.
The Martin family trades under the Marto's Mango brand. The vast bulk of their fruit is sold direct to Woolworths. It is a mutually agreeable arrangement in that both buyer and supplier have a good working relationship.
"A lot of people rebuke Woolworths, but if you give them a quality product they are good to deal with. This is out fifth year with them now. If you send them in a bad product, they will reject it and you will have to find another market for those mangoes," he said.
"We keep control of our fruit and supply to customer specifications. If you send it away for ripening you lose some of that control," Mr Martin said.
When the Townsville Bulletin was at Marto's Mangoes late last week Paul Joseph from Brisbane agents Alfred E. Chave was there looking over the 2018 crop. He liked what he saw and was taking photos to send to buyers in Singapore.
"The fruit here is looking sensational," he said.
He and Mr Martin were doing a final check on a consignment of fruit that was boxed and about to be sent out to New Zealand.
"The fruit will be on the shelves in New Zealand the day after it is flown out of Brisbane," Mr Martin said.
With new transport regulations governing rest stops for truck drivers, it now takes 3.5 days to get fruit form Bowen to Melbourne. But it can be out on the shelves in stores in Singapore 2.5 days after leaving the farm.
There are 40 workers at Marto's Mangoes, comprising backpackers and James Cook University students on their end of year break.
Ben Martin's father Gary said backpackers were good workers and that they provided an economic stimulus to Bowen.
"The backpackers are good for businesses here in Bowen. Some have farm experience when they arrive, but others get off the plane straight from Europe and they have to be nursed along for a few days," he said.