US to get a taste of Bundaberg's lovely lychees
THERE has never been a better time to be a lychee farmer.
Bundaberg grower Derek Foley has had a bumper crop this year and is preparing to send his first shipment to the US and Canada.
The export deal has been years in the making, and also helps ensure prices stay competitive on the domestic market.
On his property Electra Farms near Pine Creek, where he grows eight varieties, Mr Foley expects to produce 100 tonnes this season - 25 up on last year.
The president of the Australian Lychee Growers Association said 60-70% of lychees grown in Australia are destined for overseas shelves.
Plenty of effort has gone into ensuring US export protocols are met by Australian growers, right down to the tiny holes in the bags that line each box of lychees.
"You have to have all your ducks lined up in a row," Mr Foley said.
Ideally it will take three to five days from Bundaberg tree to US supermarket shelf.
Growers in northern Queensland have already begun shipping to the states.
Right now the market price for lychees is around $45 for a 5kg box.
"It has been as high as $100 a box - you feel criminal taking it ... but you take it," he laughed.
Good prices mean reinvestment in the local industry.
"We never stand still here," Mr Foley said in his packing shed.
"We upgraded our packing gear this year, so with the same number of people, we're doing half as much again."
The lychee picking season runs for six or seven weeks each year, and this year will finish around January 25.