Article – Vietnamese company after NT land for dragon fruit megafarm

13 March 2014
Matt Brann & Carl Curtain
ABC Rural

A Vietnamese company has revealed plans to grow up to 10,000 hectares of dragon fruit in the Northern Territory.

If it goes ahead, it will be the biggest dragon fruit farm in Australia.

The CT Group, which has a diverse portfolio that includes retail and education, has met with members of the Northern Territory Government to outline its plan of expanding its dragon fruit empire to Australia.
The CT Group is already a major producer of the bright pink fruit and, through a network of small farms across Vietnam, the company last year produced around 460,000 tonnes.
Speaking to ABC Rural in Vietnam, the NT’s Primary Industry Minister, Willem Westra van Holthe, says the CT Group wants to become one of the world’s biggest exporters of dragon fruit.
“Here in Vietnam, the CT Group have got lots of small farms and it makes the logistics a bit difficult,” he said.
“So what they’re looking for is a big-scale farm, and the Northern Territory is a place they’re seriously looking at, and they’re looking at something like 10,000 hectares of dragon fruit in the NT.”
Mr Westra van Holthe says a number of details still need to be sorted, but his department will be helping and providing advice to the CT Group on where land is available.
“I think it’s a terrific idea,” the minister said. “We’ve got lots of available land, arable soils, water is available.
“It would provide jobs for Territorians, I have no doubt about that.
“They’ll need to buy irrigation equipment, set the farm up, they’re talking about a processing facility as well, so there will need to be some building and there’ll definitely be some significant benefits flowing just from that.”
However a dragon fruit grower in Darwin’s rural area is less excited about having to compete with a large grower.
Marcus Karlsson from Humpty Doo, who has a six-hectare plantation and supplies the local and interstate markets, says it’s difficult to make money with the current consumer demand.
“It’s quite a shock actually. It would probably put me out of business, I’d say, overnight, something of that scale,” he said.
“The prices of late have been creeping down and this season was one of my worst for prices as other growers in Australia come on-line.”
He says he can flood the market with fruit from his 9,000 trees and more supply would only make the situation worse.
“If they are growing here in the Territory, then I couldn’t compete. They would be selling to the Australian market as well as exporting, you wouldn’t just export primarily,” he said.
Mr Karlsson says the development may offer his farm opportunities to export overseas also, but it would depend on the price being offered.

Courtesy of ABC Rural