Grapes are one of the oldest edible plants to be cultivated, along with olives. Fossils indicate that the consumption of grapes dates back as far as 5000BC. Today, grapes are produced globally with more than 8,000 grape varieties being grown worldwide.
Historical records indicate that grapes were first introduced to Australia in 1788. Captain Arthur Phillip, founder of the colony of New South Wales, planted a small vineyard with cuttings from South America and South Africa as one of his first ventures in horticulture.
Since then, the Australian table grape industry has grown to more than 8,000 hectares producing an average of 120,000 tonnes annually with a current estimated farm gate value of $330 million.
Warm, dry summers and deep, rich soils provide an excellent environment for Australian growers to produce world-class table grapes. Australia’s geographical spread of production enables fresh table grapes to be available from November through to May, with the peak export period extended from January to May.
Green/white, red and black varieties of grapes are produced by 1,000 growers in the major growing regions of Sunraysia (Mildura and Robinvale) in Victoria, and also throughout South-Eastern Queensland. Other growing regions include Carnarvon and the Swan Valley in Western Australia, the Riverina district in Central New South Wales, the South Australian Riverland, and central Northern Territory.
As one of Australia’s major horticulture export industries, table grapes are often the highest valued horticultural export product in Australia due to strong demand across Asia, outperforming a number of large horticultural commodities annually. Approximately 65% of table grapes grown are exported to an increasing number of destinations around the world and the remaining 35% are consumed domestically.
Table grapes are a valuable contributor to the Australian economy and a major employer of Australian labour.
The season for fresh grapes runs for six to seven months. It starts in November, peaks in February and March and closes in May.