A history of dried grapes in Australia
Two Canadian brothers, George and William Chaffey recognised the potential to irrigate arid land around the Murray River.
The Chaffey brothers worked closely with federal and state governments. By 1893, they had 8,000 acres under irrigation, supplying around 3,500 pioneer fruit growers, growing largely vine and citrus crops. However, in those days, transporting fruit – firstly by river to Echuca and then by rail to Melbourne – took several days and fresh produce would often spoil along the way. When a promised rail link to Mildura did not eventuate, growers began drying their grapes for freighting to Melbourne and other markets.
The Mildura Raisin Trust and the Renmark Raisin Trust were formed and operated independently of each other, but shared the same objectives of protecting growers by regulating prices, setting standard terms and conditions of sale and promoting exports.
The Mildura Raisin Trust and Renmark Raisin Trust joined to become the Australian Dried Fruits Association, established to protect dried fruit growers' interests.
The Australian Dried Fruits Association underwent a crisis when returns to growers crashed to very low levels, largely as the result of additional production flowing from WWI soldier settlement schemes.
A subsequent restructure led to increased focus on export and meeting local grower requirements for profitable returns.
The Association changed its name to Dried Fruits Australia to reflect the modernisation of the organisation.
An active grower-based organisation, Dried Fruits Australia provides a forum for decision making on all matters relating to the Australian dried fruits industry and represents growers' interests to all stakeholders, including government.
DFA membership comprises growers and processor/marketers, including Australia's largest processor/marketer Sunbeam Foods, Australian Premium Dried Fruits, and Murray River Organics.