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Saturday, December 20, 2008

Fresh produce equals flavourful food. SU AZIZ gets

A fresh addiction

Fresh produce equals flavourful food. SU AZIZ gets"

a "taste" of the business in Australia.

THERE was, perhaps, nothing remarkable about a young man who was studying to become an accountant and who did accounts for a gentleman who owned a small produce business in Sydney, for pocket money.

It is, however, remarkable that the young man took over the produce business and 55 years later, it has become the largest and most diverse fresh produce company in Australia.

Thirty-year-old Todd Paul Moraitis, has been a state manager for his uncle's fresh produce company, Moreitis Pty Ltd, for eight years now. "In those days there was no palletisation or forklifts and the business was labour intensive. One day that gentleman said to my uncle: 'Why don't you take over this business?' So he did."

Todd recalled that his uncle started with weekly sales of approximately one toone in potatoes and a few bags of onions. "He would drive his tfuck around Sydney delivering

the 70kg bags of potatoes to the various fruit shops he supplied. He carried the bags one by one over his shoulders."

Fast forward to 2008, they now supply bananas, mangoes, strawberries, potatoes, onions, citrus fruit, hydroponic tomatoes, pumpkins and cherries from all over Australia to supermarket chains and independent retailers throughout the country and parts of Asia such as Malaysia.

What constitutes fresh produce? "Fresh produce is produce (fruits and vegetables) that is farmed and harvested as a crop and conveyed to consumers in an unmodified state," explained Todd.

"Fresh produce carries the consumer pemeptlen of being 'fresher and better for you'. It

articulates with 'natural food', is associated with a country or regional area of production, and'is not processed in any form other than convenience packaging."

Processed produce, Todd continued, "is where fresh produce has changed form from its original harvested state to one that has a 'value-added' component for a specific market." Examples are canned and frozen produce, modified atmosphere packaging and the like.

Fresh produce consumption globally is growing at a rate equal to or just above population growth. These trends can be influenced positively by either a specific product or a variety of products cleverly positioning its image and brand value.

These days, the trend of developing countries is leaning towards "Western-style food". Todd added: "For example in China, the first three priorities of consumers are food safety, food safety and food safety. Whereas in Australia they are first flavour and taste, second price and third service."

The thing we never think about is soil and how minerals in soils are a huge part of the nutritional benefits of fresh produce such as vegetables and fruits.

"Yes, minerals in soils have an enormous bearing on nuthtlenal benefit as well as fiavour profile. Flevour profile is the No. 1 driver of both consumption and repeat purchase in developed countries.

"Australia has been moving to a principle of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) for some time. This has been loosely described as 'bug wars -- good bugs fighting bad bugs'. In essence it is the development of the growing conditions to sustainably equate to maximum levels of production while enhancing the highest levels of flavour and taste.

Since Asia seems to be changing tastes from traditional foods and reliance upon staples such as rice, Todd noticed a substantial growth in potato production.

"However, this may change again with the present Increases In the pnce of rice and farmers aiming to maximise their returns," he added ruefully.

Consumption reflects that vegetables, especially leafy varieties and some hard vegetables such as carrots, onions, cabbage and potatoes, are some of the strongest while the demand for tomatoes is fast increasing. As for fruits, apples, melons, stone fruit and avocados lead the way.

The reality of farming is that Mother Nature can be as cruel as she is kind.

"Growing any crop of fruit or vegetables carries high levels of risk. Crops can be devastated by heat stress, rain, frost and hail damage, disease and flooding. The most publicised example of this is cyclone Larry that hit North Queensland in 2006.

"Cyclone Larry wiped out 90 per cent of Australia's banana drops and devastated the banana growers of Australia. Bananas became so scarce that the wholesale price reached as high as AUS$150 (RM480) per carton," said Todd.

Just why should we eat fresh produce? Well, it is for better health and it most certainly helps if flavours are wondrous, hence resulting in repeat consumption! Or as Todd puts it, "We need to become 'addicted' to fresh produce for better health." suaziz@nstp.com.my


Know what keeps well

THERE are gripes about maintaining fresh produce.

A few websites cite examples of fruits and vegetables that will last for a week or less: Artichoke, asparagus, avocado, banana, basil, broccoli, green bean, mushroom, cherry, corn, dill, strawberry and watercress.

Examples of the ones that will last for about a week are; Arugula, cucubmer, eggplant,

grapes, lettuce, lime, mesclun, pineapple and zucchini.

The following will last up to a few weeks if stored properly: Apricot, paprika, Brussel

sprout, cauliflower, grapefruit, leek, lemon, orange, oregano, peach, pear, plum, spinach,

tomato and watermelon.

Finally, the following will last for several months. Although they are best eaten within a month:Apple, beet, cabbage, carrot, celery, garlic, onion and potato.

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