Western Australian carrot production continues to expand to meet increasing international demand. In 2011/12, total production from an estimated 1870 hectares was 112 140 tonnes with an average yield of 60 tonnes per hectare (ABS).
In 2012/13, Western Australian exporters shipped 64 430 tonnes of fresh carrots to customers in 15 countries. The major export markets are in the Middle East and Asia (see Carrot exports from WA). In the same year Australian carrot production was estimated at 319 185 tonnes from 5528 hectares.
Western Australian carrot producers are now mostly vertically integrated such that they manage growing, packing and marketing operations. Irrigated production areas on farms range from about 40 to 1000 hectares.
The largest scale production is under centre-pivot irrigation north of Perth. All export carrot production and packing is under third party audited quality assurance systems that include HACCP analysis to ensure food safety.
Large scale, highly mechanised field production and packing ensure that fresh hydro-cooled carrots are moved swiftly from the paddock through the packing shed and into refrigerated land and sea containers for delivery to local, interstate and overseas customers.
The mild winters and hot summers with cooling sea breezes, together with sandy soils in coastal areas of south-western Australia provide an ideal environment for year-round carrot production. Well-managed supplies of good quality groundwater for irrigation complete the recipe for growing high quality carrots.
The carrot growing areas are within 150km of Perth, at Lancelin and West Gingin to the north, and Myalup and Baldivis to the south. These areas fall between latitudes 30 and 33oS. Fremantle is the port close to Perth from where carrots are shipped.
Western Australian carrot production is located on sandy soils where crop nutrition and overhead sprinkler or centre-pivot irrigation is carefully managed using modern computer-controlled systems. Several hybrid Nantes style varieties are grown. Seed of these varieties is produced by vegetable breeding companies in France and Japan. Nantes varieties are renowned for their crunchy texture, sweet flavour and good colour. Seed is sown with precision air-seeders to ensure uniform size and shape.
Summer carrot crops can be ready for harvest in 16 weeks from sowing, while crops growing through the cooler winter months may grow for up to 24 weeks. Carrots are machine-harvested and transported a short distance to the packing shed.
After harvest, the carrots are washed, brush polished, hydro-cooled, size and quality graded and packed into 10, 15 and 20 kilogram plastic bag-lined cardboard cartons or into 0.5 and 1 kilogram retail ready pre-pack bags.
Packed export carrots are then pelletised and held in coolrooms at 1oC ready for loading into refrigerated sea containers. Careful cool chain management is integral to maintaining quality and shelf-life of Western Australian carrots.
The Australian Government oversees the export of Australian fresh fruit and vegetables through the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS). AQIS has a role in ensuring that exports meet requirements of overseas authorities by providing information, inspection and certification services. AQIS fulfils Australia’s commitments to ensuring international standards and phytosanitary requirements are met.
Carrots have among the highest beta-carotene (provitamin A) level found in vegetables, which gives them the bright orange colour. B-carotene has antioxidant properties that help neutralise potentially health damaging free radicals. The deeper the carrot colour, generally the more carotene, which is broken down during digestion to vitamin A. Purple carrots contain anthocyanin, another antioxidant with health benefits.
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Bitter off-flavours can develop when carrots are stored in open containers with ethylene-producing fruit such as apples and tomatoes. Sealing carrots in plastic bags in a refrigerator will maintain freshness and minimise development of bitter off-flavours.
Fresh carrots also contain small amounts of protein and oil, about 9% total sugars, 2.5% dietary fibre plus other vitamins, minerals and folate.
The antioxidants in carrots help protect the body from cardiovascular disease and cancer, and help to regulate blood sugar levels.
Both raw and cooked carrots are healthy additions to any diet.
This information was originally authored by Allan McKay.