Woolsworth Supports Australian Grown Dates with $400,000 Grant

By Hari Yellina
Photo by Rauf Alvi on Unsplash

Woolworths has given a $414,000 grant to a family-owned organic date farm in Southern Australia to assist the supply of locally grown dates in a market that is heavily reliant on imports. The Gurra Downs Date Company grant is part of a total of $1,140,000 in financing for organic growers from the Woolworths Organic Growth Fund’s latest phase. Gurra Downs Date Company is run by Dave, Anita, and Shaun Reilly and is located in the Riverland region of South Australia. The Reilly family has been farming organic vegetables for over 30 years, and in the early 1990s, they began planting salt-tolerant date trees to adapt to irrigation water collected from the Gurra Gurra Wetlands.

While dates are becoming more popular among Australians, local supply is still restricted, forcing the domestic market to rely on imported dates from Mexico and the United States to meet demand. The award will fund a power update and new equipment for the Reilly’s packhouse, which will help wash, dry, grade, and sort the fruit, eliminating human labour and increasing total production capacity. “We can get the fruit off the trees quickly,” Dave Reilly of Gurra Downs Date Company said, “but once we get into the packhouse, everything slows down because we don’t have the necessary equipment to process swiftly.” “The Woolworths grant will assist us in developing a packing plant with processing equipment that can efficiently manage increased volumes and provide value-added options for our customers,” says the company.

The grant also kickstarts a new relationship that will see Gurra Downs dates available in select Woolworths supermarkets. “We’re happy to be supporting family-owned Australian businesses that are sowing the seeds to help satisfy the demand for organic produce in the years ahead,” said Woolworths Commercial Director of Fruit & Veg, Paul Turner. Moreover, as people become more interested in where their food originates from and how it’s grown, demand for organic fruit and vegetables has climbed by roughly 30% in the previous three years. Fruit and vegetables from Australia will always be the first choice. “We can help customers put more Australian produce in their shopping baskets each week by supporting local growers like the Reillys.”

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