A GROUP of local prune growers is headed to the states next week in an effort to secure the future of their industry.
Nine growers and one horticulturalist will take part in the Californian Prune Industry Study Tour, which runs from July 14 to 18.
Chairman of Australian Prune Industry Association and grower Grant Delves said they were looking forward to the trip.
"Australia is already following world best practices in growing prunes and this is a great opportunity to see how one of the biggest producers does things," he said.
"We produce 4000 dry tonne but in America they produce 90,000 to 100,000.
"While we are there, we will visit one farmer whose farm is bigger than all of ours put together.
"Travelling to California will help make new industry contacts and re-affirm others, so as to improve the communication between the US and Australian industries and ensure growers in both countries are better informed."
The project has been funded by Horticulture Australia Limited (HAL) using voluntary contributions from industry and matched funds from the Australian Government.
The study tour comes at what has been described as an important time for the prune industry in Australia.
"The future of the industry depends on it re-establishing itself as a reliable supplier of high-quality prunes on the domestic market and opening export markets that can attract premium prices," Mr Delves said.
"We met quite a number of producers during the international prune conference back in November and made some good contacts.
"We will be meeting the world's largest prune processor Sunsweet Co-Operative and industry representatives from Californian Dried Plum Board and Californian Prune Bargaining Association.
"We'll be checking out the prunes that have arrived and looking at logistics.
"Choice of variety of prunes is important. Australia has its own variety trials, but we are meeting with a guy who is the world's foremost authority hoping to learn as much as we can about a lot of newer varieties.
"It's going to be a busy tour, but we are looking forward to it."