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The Price of Australian Mangosteens

Price of Australian Mangosteens

The price of Australian mangosteens are a contentious issue - mainly from Southeast Asian migrants living in Australia. Understandably so, as mangosteens are native to Southeast Asia, grow and fruit prolifically. Not to mention with Thailand being the largest global exporter of mangosteens, the fruit is not scarce in the region.

The warm hot and humid climate all year round, sheltered from devastating weather patterns make Malaysia and Thailand a haven for mangosteen growing, and many tropical fruit.

But importing those tropical fruits into Australia can be a huge biosecurity risk with plant diseases.

Australia is such a blessed country (or continent!) where we can actually enjoy fruits from different climates through the year. In fact, we’re very lucky to enjoy North Queensland grown mangosteens that are deliciously sweet, plump and juicy! Some say they taste much better than Thailand mangosteens.

Australia’s Mangosteen History

The Mangosteen was introduced to Australia in the 1940s. The attempts to grow them in Southern Queensland and Northern NSW had failed. Eventually in the 1970s, as the trees began to establish successfully with fruit, North Queensland became the primary growing region and supplying 98.6% (approx 11,606 trees) of Australia’s mangosteens.

Whilst Darwin had also attempted growing mangosteen, it is no longer a commercial producer due to the high cost of maintaining the trees in the region’s dry season.

A slow growing tree, it can take between 7 to 10 years before a tree begins to fruit. It requires heavy shade in its seedling years, high humidity, and temperature between 20-33°C. Trees have died when temperature dips below 5°C; or even at higher than 38°C - which is a typical Darwin dry season.

The Risk of Growing Mangosteen

The devastation of Cyclone Larry in 2006, and Yasi in 2012 saw an exodus of Queensland farmers abandoning the exotic tropical fruit industry.

North Queensland gets hit with an average of 7-11 cyclones a year, every year. Cyclone season during November and April is also the same peak season for harvesting many Queensland tropical fruit such as durian, mangosteen, lychee, rambutan, marang, duku langsat and others.

One season could see a bountiful supply of fruit ready to be harvested, then all it takes is ONE single cyclone to wipe out the entire crop and fruit trees.

Can you imagine nuturing mangosteen trees over 7-10 years, then it fruits in abundance - only to have its first crop wiped out by a cyclone?

A thousand tonnes of fruit GONE - in a matter of minutes.

The Australian Agrifutures website shared that in 2011, “yields of 5,550 kg/ha and a farm gate price of AU$8/kg used in calculations that indicated a breakeven period of 20 years for mangosteen, with an initial investment of AU$191,100 required to establish a five hectare orchard and with recurrent costs of AU$73,333 per year.”

Price of Malaysian and Thai mangosteen

The Culture Shock

Whilst Southeast Asian migrants baulk and gripe at the price of Australian mangosteens between $55-80/kg in Sydney, there is no doubt that they’re comparing 130 Baht per kg (AU$5/kg) in Thailand, or RM8/kg (AU$2.50/kg) in Malaysia.

Hardly any consideration of the scarcity of Queensland Mangosteens ever crosses anyone’s mind.

The Unseen Cost

Travel between Cairns to Sydney

Australia’s labourer minimum wage is between AU$20-24 per hour, while in Thailand AUD$14 per hour, and in Malaysia barely AUD$2 per hour.

This very fact almost makes one realise - how happy we are to exploit our fellow Southeast Asians for cheap fruit.

In addition to labour, Australia’s continent has a huge logistical challenge. Freight between North Queensland and Sydney is over 2,500km. That’s equivalent to travelling from Singapore to Laos by road! Mangosteens like all Queensland tropical fruit, to keep costs reasonable is road-freighted down south. 

A single 1000kg pallet of fruit could cost a farmer AU$200-300 to ship to Sydney. Adding $0.20-0.30/kg to the cost of fruit. Could you imagine how much it would cost to air-freight it?

So the next time you see the price of Australian mangosteens at your local greengrocer, and feel the pith of your stomach turn green, consider what it took to grow these deliciously royal fruit in this great country.

It is indeed royally priced, and a fruit fit for a Queen.

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