Apple Industry

Apple case label, 1930s (Tasmaniana Library, SLT)

Tasmania is often called the 'Apple Isle' in reference to its outstanding apple industry. Apples are indeed a part of Tasmania's non-Aboriginal history from its inception to present. The first apple tree planted in Tasmania dates from 1788 when William Bligh anchored in Adventure Bay on Bruny Island and planted a selection of fruit, including three apple seedlings, the first apple trees planted in Australia.

Apples were an important crop in Tasmania from early colonial settlement until the present. As an industry, it has also been extremely important to Tasmania, from its first commercial developments in the mid-nineteenth century through the main productive period from the early to mid-1900s. The codlin moth, introduced in the 1870s, threatened the development of the apple industry at a time when it was Tasmania's second most important industry. The unexpected event led to attempts to control the moth, and a re-organisation of the industry.

Mainland and overseas export of apples was initiated in the late nineteenth century by George Peacock, WD Peacock, Sir Henry Jones and WE Shoobridge. Export peaked in the 1920s and 1930s essentially to European markets. After Britain joined the European Common Market in the early 1970s, apple exports fell drastically. Between 1972 and 1975 the apple industry required complete restructuring and the Tree Pull Scheme reduced the production of apples by 50 percent and the number of orchardists by 700.

The by-products of the apple industry such as dried apples, jams and jellies or cider have been exploited, whether in an early farm economy or as an organised industry. The apple processing industry in Tasmania grew from these by-products. The final products also included canned apples, apple pack, pectin concentrate and apple juice. Henry Jones and Co Ltd became registered as a public company in 1903 (four years after it was taken over from George Peacock), and the iconic brand name IXL continues to be seen on many breakfast tables even today.

Further reading: A Mc Connell and N Servant, Historical Heritage of the Apple Industry in Tasmania, Hobart, 1999.

Nathalie Servant