IT HAS been a tough season for mangoes, but for one Bundaberg farmer there is a silver lining.
Out on Electra Farms, 20km south of Bundaberg, Derek Foley is preparing to send precious cargo to a major supplier south of the border.
"We're down a bit on our crop this year," Mr Foley said.
"It was a warm winter and things didn't flower as well.
"The seasons in the last few years have shifted, with a cooler spring too, and that alters our timing.
"When you're dealing with nature, you've always got something thrown at you."
But a chance encounter with fruit and veg magnate David Harris has put a spring in his step.
Electra currently grows Honey Gold, R2E2, Keat and Silky varieties.
The latter is a variety unique to the farm, thanks to a happy accident: a mutation that created a new variety.
The Silky is "like Kensington Pride, but smoother", with bright orange flesh and pink skin that gains a yellow blush when ripe.
Mr Foley is in the process of grafting all of his trees to Silky to meet a supply deal sealed with Harris Farm markets in Sydney.
"(David Harris's) son was a groomsman at my daughter's wedding, and I thought 'I should talk to the old man about this'," he laughed.
"I sent some to him and he loved them."
High praise from the founder of a chain now spread across 26 stores in New South Wales.
"They shift more mangoes out of their 26 shops in Sydney than Woolworths does across NSW," Mr Foley said.
"Eventually, he wants 30,000 trays.
"We've got 3,000 this year, we'll have 8,000 next year, and the year after that we should be where they want us."
The Silky mango will hit shelves at Learmonths Foodworks at the end of January.
Mr Foley is technically the third generation to own the Electra land, but he is the first to roll up his sleeves and become a farmer.
Born and bred in Sydney, his father was an executive at companies including Westpac.
"We would come up here for holidays when I was young," Mr Foley recalled.
"Then I started coming up myself for a month, and then six months ... now, here I am."
Back then the property was sugar cane, but Mr Foley believes there is better income to be found in fruit, and has diversified into lychees, mangoes and lemons.
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