Subtropical packed product analysis

Is reject fruit causing growers to leave money on the table?

Subtropical packed product analysis

Supplying consumers with good quality fruit all year round is at the top of the list for many banana growers, especially in a competitive fresh fruit market. To do this however it’s important to understand why some fruit sent to market may not be up to spec.

About the study

In Coffs Harbour NSW, a packed product analysis was carried out to provide a clearer picture. It looked at fruit after ripening to see what issues were causing fruit to be rejected at retail outlets. The findings from this study provide growers and industry with information that can assist in recognising and addressing the most common reasons for fruit being rejected.

Fruit was assessed at Golden Dawn, a major banana ripening and wholesale company in the Coffs Harbour region. Assessments were made on fruit supplied by 12 banana growers, consisting of 71 cartons that contained a total of 709 clusters.

Sydney retail display of Lady Finger fruit

Fruit was checked against the most recent specifications released for Woolworths subtropical Cavendish produce, issued December 2014. These specifications have the most strictest criteria compared to other retailers. In broad terms, the specs state that ‘total minor defects should not exceed 10% of consignment’ and ‘total major defects must not exceed 2% of consignment’ with a ‘combined total not to exceed 10%’ of clusters with a defect. If defect levels are found higher than this, retailers are well within their rights to pay suppliers less for the fruit or reject the consignment entirely. This is what could have happened to the fruit that was assessed as part of this study. 

As an example, the potential loss of this consignment could be as much as $1420 (71 cartons @ $20/carton price).

This doesn’t include any additional costs associated with packing or getting the fruit to market, such as transportation costs.


The results showed that 38% of all clusters inspected were deemed to have either a major or minor defect, more than 3 times above the levels specified by Woolworths. Figure 1 below provides a breakdown of that percentage and lists the most common defects found.

Results of fruit assessment showing percentage of clusters with major and minor defects. Assessment based on a consignment of 71 cartons.
Cuts, holes or punctures were the most common major defect identified during the study and accounted for 45% of all major defects assessed.

The findings of this study suggest that at present there is too much fruit with major or minor defects that is being packed, increasing the risk of consignments being rejected or their value reduced. As a result growers are potentially leaving money on the table.

However, the good news for growers is, there are opportunities to improve quality by taking a closer look at the defects found in this study. This includes simple and cost-effective changes that can be made in the paddock, in the pack shed and in the supply chain. All of these can increase profitability for growers and further improve the quality of fruit we see on retail shelves. 

A new banana packing poster is now available for subtropical banana growers. The poster highlights some of the most common banana defects identified in this study and provides a guide to help growers determine whether they should be packed or rejected. See below for details on how to get a copy.

More detailed information on the types of defects found in the study, as well as management strategies are available via the links below.

More information...

A poster is now available showing common quality issues and packing guidelines for subtropical banana growers. To receive a hard copy or for more information contact NSW DPI Industry Development Officer Tom Flanagan on (02) 6626 1352 or email 

NSW DPI would like to acknowledge the contributions made to this study by Geoff Bridgfoot, Paul Gibbins, Paul Thorburn, Kaye Adriaansz from Golden Dawn, Dave Norberry from D&D Ripeners, all NSW banana growers that supplied fruit.
This research has been funded as part of the Subtropical Banana Development and Extension Program (BA16007), which is funded by Hort Innovation, using the banana research and development levy and co-investment from the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries. Hort Innovation is the grower-owned, not-for-profit research and development corporation for Australian horticulture.