The Kakadu Plum, also known as Gubinge or Billy Goat Plum is a culturally significant food source for Aboriginal communities in parts of northern Australia. It grows in the coastal tropical woodlands from north-western Western Australia through to eastern Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory, Australia. The health benefits of the Kakadu Plum have been long known to Aboriginal people. Research shows that the Kakadu Plum has high levels of Vitamin C and is extremely rich in anti-oxidants, which are great for improving human health

These health benefits are generating new interest in Kakadu Plum, presenting an opportunity for Aboriginal communities to gain livelihood benefits by being involved in developing this industry by increasing the quantities grown to ensure a consistent supply of quality fruit. The Rural Industries R&D Corporation is investigating how to take advantage of this opportunity. Market analysis undertaken by the Department Agriculture and Food WA suggested that there was potential in the cosmetic marketplace for Kakadu Plum to be used in make-up but the problems facing the fledgling industry were significant. Problems included the need to reduce costs, improve harvesting skills, increase the quality and quantity of fruit, work on regional processing, the need for a generic or national brand, the need for industry co-operation and a strong representative voice for the industry, the need for certification, the need to work on intellectual property and/or Fairtrade labelling and work on understanding the fruit’s carbon footprint and to audit the carbon footprint regularly.

The Rural Industries R&D Corporation funded two workshops, one held in Broome in July 2011 and one in Darwin in October 2011, which sought to build on stories of cultural and scientific knowledge of the fruit in the aspiration that collaboration and judicious investment in research and development will maximise the community benefit flowing from Kakadu Plum’s future management. These workshops were attended by traditional land owners, government, and research organisations. As a consequence RIRDC is funding a three year project to look at enhancing the quality and quantity of supply all along the value chain in both wild harvest and cultivation, as well as much improved industry processing capacity. This will be undertaken by establishing two genetic orchards in the top end of Australia. The proposal is still being finalised but it is hoped the research will commence in late 2012.

For more information contact Alison Saunders Senior Research Manager: alison.saunders@rirdc.gov.au

Thanks to Rural Industries R&D Corporation for this article.

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