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Fruit exporters in a pickle over VICT picket

CONSIGNMENTS of apples and pears are among the cargo consignments held up at Webb Dock as a consequence of a picket.

The picket has been in place for two weeks and has forced a halt to operations at the nation’s newest and most modern box terminal.

Australian Horticultural Exporters’ and Importers’ Association chief executive, Dominic Jenkin, said some members had containers of Indonesia-bound pears stuck at the docks with a value of about $45,000 per container.

Even though the containers are chilled preventing the fruit from deteriorating rapidly, Mr Jenkins said there still would be a price to pay.

“The reality is fruit destined for Indonesia had at least a week and a half on the water anyway.

“So, if they had been allowed to depart they probably would only be arriving in port about now,” he said. “I wouldn’t imagine they would have their quality downgraded as of now but what may have happened is the shelf life would have been reduced to the point where they cannot be exported.

“That would see their value downgraded if they were then released onto the domestic market.”

Mr Jenkin said releasing additional volumes onto the domestic market would suppress pricing across the board.

“The other (issue) is these items would have been purchased by an importer who will have had a structured supply program into retail over in these export markets.

“They see themselves being put in a situation where they can’t fulfil their commitments,” he said.

Indonesian importers would look to substitute product from other parts of the world, notably South Africa, a country with lower production costs.

“That offers a market opportunity for our global competitors to move in on our markets,” Mr Jenkins said.

A VICT spokesman told DCN the picket remained in place and the company was seeking further injunctions against picketers.

The Supreme Court hearing is to be held at 3pm Monday.

Source: http://www.thedcn.com.au - Daily Cargo News

Author: David Sexton 

Date: 11th Dec 2017


Fruit shipments left stranded as port dispute enters second week

Hundreds of containers have been stranded for more than a week at the Port of Melbourne, smh.com.au reports. Containers carrying fruit, frozen prawns, grain, milk products, toys, Christmas decorations and machine parts are going nowhere due to an industrial dispute at the nation's busiest port.

Joe Tullio, managing director of Australia Fruits fears his shipment of $45,000 in Victorian pears will see a total loss. He tells that the shipment has already been stranded at the port for over 10 days.

The Supreme Court on Friday ordered the Maritime Union of Australia to lift the picket but it has continued as a "community protest" with support from other unions.

Victoria International Container Terminal, which runs the first fully automated terminal in the country, has become the latest employer to face the trade unions. The issues are perceived substandard wage agreements and violations of workplace rights.

Mr Dominic Jenkin, chief executive officer of the Australian Horticultural Exporters' Association said he knew of several other containers of fresh produce being held up on the dock for more than 10 days.

Publication date: 12/8/2017

Source: www.freshplaza.com 

Container ships diverted away from Melbourne amid blockade

Container ships have reportedly been left stranded outside the Australian Port of Melbourne due to a union-backed blockade, ABC reported.

Some 50 workers from the Maritime Union of Australia have gone on strike and shut down the Victoria International Container Terminal (VICT) over the alleged treatment of one of its members, according to the story.

The dispute has been ongoing for 10 days and has forced perishable cargo to be diverted to Adelaide and then taken by road more than 700km (450 miles) to Melbourne.

Victorian Transport Association head Peter Anderson was quoted as saying: “There are goods coming directly into the shelves, there are goods being bought left right and center.”

“Unfortunately the supply chain will be disrupted by this action,” he said.

The conflict between the union and the VICT came to a head when an audit revealed that 22 workers did not have a Maritime Security Identification card, which lets workers into secure areas.

According to the union, the one worker who had taken the company to Fair Work had his employment terminated.

Source: www.freshfruitportal.com 

Aussie award for export ace Minnis

Horticulture leader David Minnis wins University of Queensland’s Gatton Gold Medal for “outstanding contribution”

Industry stalwart David Minnis, whose more than 50-year career has focused on the export of high-quality Australian fruit and vegetables and improving access to international markets, was honoured with the University of Queensland’s (UQ) 2017 Gatton Gold Medal this week.

Minnis accepted the award at the graduation ceremony for the university’s School of Agriculture and Food Sciences at UQ Gatton on Thursday (7 December).

UQ Dean of Science and Associate Dean for Research Professor Ian Gentle said the award was made each year to a UQ graduate who had made an outstanding contribution in their field.

“We are delighted that in UQ Gatton’s 120th year, David is recognised for his leadership in scientific, post-harvest innovations and developing export markets for Australia,” Gentle said.

“Only last month, the Vice-Chancellor Professor Peter Hoj announced a new Centre for Horticulture Science will be launched at UQ.

“Horticulture is one of the largest and most diverse industries in Australian agriculture, accounting for 18 per cent of its total value.”

Fruitful career

Minnis, now 74, began his career in research and built up a wealth of knowledge on quarantine, biosecurity, market access and international trade. He has worked in the public and private sector and has provided technical and policy advice to both government and industry.

Having earned a Diploma in Horticulture from the Queensland Agricultural College (now UQ Gatton) in 1963, he went on to obtain Bachelors and Masters degrees in horiculture at Lincoln College, New Zealand.

Minnis has held senior roles in Australian horticultural research and exporting organisations, including Austrade, the Australian Horticultural Exporters Association and the Australian Horticultural Research and Development Corporation.

After joining the Victorian Department of Agriculture, he was seconded to the Department of Primary Industries in Canberra in 1978, when Minnis spent time in the UK and Europe reporting on the arrival condition of Australian fruit and vegetable exports. He was again seconded to the commonwealth in 1984 and stationed in SIngapore to report on the outturn of Australian produce and provide market intelligence covering a range of countries in South East Asia and North Asia.

In 1993, Minnis established his own Australian export company, 888 Exports, which he now runs with son Byron, exporting more than A$10m worth of fresh produce a year.

“My scientific background has been very helpful and much of my career has also centred on gaining Australian access to closed or restricted international horticultural markets,” said Minnis.

“It’s important that Australia does export to improve profitability as we have a small population and would otherwise be in an oversupply situation.”

Practical purpose

Reflecting on his own Diploma in Horticulture, Minnis told Fruitnet the course had a highly practical dimension that was of great value to his career in the fresh produce business.

“We ploughed the fields, planted vegetable crops, mechanically harvested potatoes, picked citrus fruit and grew plants in glasshouses. We experienced the full range of the seasons at Gatton – you need to do that,” he said. “If you’re studying ag or hort science today, it’s fine to be in the CBD lab but you need to be out in rural areas looking at things.”

In his acceptance speech, Minnis said the good news for today’s graduates is that funding for R&D with Horticulture Innovation Australia under the commonwealth system of matching grower levies has grown to A$84.5m in 2016/17, with a further A$19.3m allocated to promotion and marketing.

“Almost A$104m was invested in the horticulture industry last year with 32 industries paying statutory levies,” he said. “These funds are allocated to projects universities, government agencies and private enterprises can tender for.”

Minnis’s expertise and international standing in the horticulture field have previously been recognised with an Order of Australia Medal, and with award from the Australian Horticultural Exporters Association and Horticulture Australia.

Source: http://www.fruitnet.com Author: John Hay

Image source: http://www.fruitnet.com


Ports dispute enters second week

Joe Tullio's shipping container of Victorian pears worth $45,000 has been stranded at the Port of Melbourne for more than 10 days.
Along with hundreds of other containers carrying frozen prawns, grain and milk products, EpiPens for diabetes sufferers, toys, Christmas decorations and machine parts, Mr Tullo's is caught in the middle of a deepening industrial dispute at the nation's busiest port.

Mr Tullio, managing director of Australia Fruits, fears he could lose all his money or have to heavily discount the produce which should have arrived in Indonesia by now.
He dropped the pears off at the dock on Friday, November 24, for shipment the following Monday when a union picket at the Victoria International Container Terminal stopped the shipment and any trucks from entering to pick up imports or deliver exports.

The Supreme Court on Friday ordered the Maritime Union of Australia to lift the picket but it has continued as a "community protest" with support from other unions including the national construction union, the electrical trades union and Victoria Trades Hall Council. VICT is now monitoring the picket line to check no MUA members are taking part.

The Victoria International Container Terminal, which runs the first fully automated terminal in the country, has become the latest employer to face assertive campaigning from the trade union movement over what it claims are substandard wage agreements and violations of workplace rights.
The union protest began with a dispute over one MUA member who was refused a security permit to continue working at the site.
It is also a protest against VICT's refusal to negotiate an industrial agreement at the highly-automated terminal with the MUA. Instead, it struck a greenfields agreement with another union called the Australian Maritime Officers Union which was signed off by five to ten workers on behalf of a current workforce of more than 120.

The MUA claims workers are being underpaid, but VICT disputes this saying typical earnings range from $140,000 to $160,000, topping out at $180,000. "We reject the implication that making an agreement with the only employees we had at the time was somehow unfair or otherwise unacceptable," a company spokesman said.

More than 1000 shipping containers carrying retail goods, Christmas decorations, fresh food and medicine remain stranded on Mebourne's waterfront, as a picket line blockading a major container terminal enters its second week.

In the meantime, people like Mr Tullio are caught in the middle of the dispute and they stand to lose a lot of money while it continues.
"It is a bit nerve-racking when it's our money sitting there," Mr Tullio said. "The pears weren't put on the boat because of the union dispute. We can't even go in and retrieve [our container]."

Dominic Jenkin, chief executive officer of the Australian Horticultural Exporters' Association said he knew of several other containers of fresh produce being held up on the dock for more than 10 days. If and when Mr Tullio's pears finally arrive in Indonesia, their value will be degraded.
"You can't hold perishable products indefinitely," Mr Jenkin said.
"This disrupts the trading relationship and our reputation as Australian exporters"

Russell Zimmerman, of the Australian Retailers Association, said the wharf dispute was threatening the delivery of retail products during the busy Christmas trading period.
"Our concern is that there are retailers who will be waiting for product," he said. "This will disrupt commerce particularly at this time of the year.
"Coming this close to Christmas, our concern is that there could be gifts or other products that people would be expecting to have in time.
"There could be some very disappointed people."

A spokesman for VICT said the stranded imports included EpiPens, frozen prawns and other seafood, toys, Christmas decorations and machinery parts. Stranded exports included frozen meat, chilled cheese, wine, fruit, cotton, clay, timber, lead, zinc and aluminium, hay, grain, wheat and milk products destined for China.

The company has threatened to seek damages of up to $100 million it says it stands to lose because of the union blockade.
Container Transport Alliance Australia, representing trucking and logistics companies, said many of its members had taken a financial hit after having their trucks turned away at the gates.
"It's affecting big and small logistics companies, and family businesses who have sent their trucks down there to pick up a container," spokesman Gerard Langes said.
"The cost of the round trip will never be able to be recouped from the customer ... we call them futile trips."
Mr Langes urged the waterside protesters to comply with orders to break the picket line, and stop hurting businesses that were caught in the middle.
"If this is a legitimate protest, why don't they protest the government authority who said they wouldn't issue the security card?" he said.

MUA Deputy National Secretary Will Tracey has said there were 22 workers at the site who did not have a Maritime Security Identification Card to work in a restricted zone and were awaiting processing.
Mr Tracey said the MUA was seeking minimum standards for wages and conditions, but the company refused to negotiate with the union.
"VICT is continuing a disturbing recent trend by employers who want to engage in a race to the bottom by accepting a workplace agreement voted on by five staff chosen by the company that slashes penalty rates and casual loading," he said.
"The Port Melbourne community has decided to take a stand against a company with an atrocious labour record around the globe that should not be allowed to operate in this country."

Thousands of unionists and supporters in the wider community are expected to converge on the Port of Melbourne from 10 am on Friday to "take a stand" against VICT.
Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union Victorian secretary John Setka posted on social media for union members to join the "Webb Dock peaceful assembly" on Friday, comparing it to Patrick's historic 1998 waterfront dispute.
Union leaders this week launched a fierce attack on former Labor Party veteran Linsday Tanner who is a director of Victoria International Container Terminal, and Mick O'Leary, a former MUA official, who is now the company's HR manager.

"We are furious at the former Labor has-beens that are dabbling with this company," Victorian Trade Hall secretary Luke Hilakari said.
"They earned their careers off the backs of working people, now they are earning their dime at the expense of working people.
"If they have a conscience, the right thing they would do right now would be to resign from that company."
Fairfax Media contacted Mr Tanner for comment but its calls were not returned.

The Webb Dock picket line is being widely supported by the broader Victorian union movement, with officials saying they stand "shoulder-to-shoulder" with the MUA.

A spokesman for Employment Minister Michaelia Cash said militant union officials pulling the strings at the picket "do not care about the jobs of workers throughout the supply chain or the thousands of other members of the public who will be disadvantaged by it".
"Worse still, this reckless action is preventing millions of dollars of export earnings for local businesses and preventing the import of much-needed medical deliveries in the lead up to Christmas," she said.

Pest non-compliance in Italian kiwifruit

Nearly half of Italian kiwi shipments to Australia contain quarantine pests
The Australian Department of Agriculture and Water Resources (DAWR) has reviewed import data for Italian kiwifruit over a five year period from 2011 to 2016. This review identified that 47 percent of consignments were detected with quarantine pests over this period.

DAWR said that it has given this information to the Italian Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Forestry Policies (MiPAAF) with expectation that this non-compliance will be investigated and corrective actions implemented to reduce pest non-compliance. DAWR intends to monitor pest non-compliance during the 2017-18 season and if a significant reduction in pest noncompliance is not achieved, DAWR tells that it will consider additional measures.

Italian Kiwis to Aus 2

Pest interceptions on Italian kiwifruit consignments from 26 October 2017 to 17 November 2017:

  • Total Consignments: 13
  • Consignments requiring fumigation: 7 (54%)
  • Consignments reconditioned for excessive trash: 1 (8%)

Italian Kiwis to Aus

DAWR may seek to impose a pre-shipment treatment (e.g. fumigation) on this import pathway should pest non-compliance not be significantly improved. This would likely affect the 2018-19 season.

For more information:
Dominic Jenkin, CEO
Australian Horticultural Exporters' and Importers' Association
Tel: + 61 423 394 476

Source: www.freshplaza.com - Publication date: 12/5/2017

First dragon fruit imports from Vietnam defended by Australian horticultural trade group

The Australian Horticultural Exporters' and Importers' Association (AHEIA) has defended the arrival of dragon fruit from Vietnam, in the face of concern from local growers.

Around three tonnes of the Vietnamese fruit arrived in Melbourne in September for the first time, following a review of the biosecurity import requirements.

The opening of the market to overseas produce has drawn the ire of farmers, including in the Northern Territory where food safety, pest and disease issues have all been raised.

Described as a niche market, local growers also believe the increased competition could decrease their profitability, particularly as the harvest begins in the Top End.

However AHEIA chief executive Dominic Jenkin said the decision to accept the foreign produce could assist in building the local market.

"The problem you have with a fledgling industry is often the offering of the dragon fruit in front of consumers is irregular and intermittent," he said.

"It's hard to be able to influence regular purchasing behaviours in the market and sustain that throughout the year.

"We see imports have a place in being able to do that, and this has been successfully done for years with counter-seasonal products that are imported out of northern hemisphere countries."

While it was unclear how much dragon fruit Australian farmers currently produced, a 2012 report from the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation had the annual figure at 751 tonnes.

The country's largest farm in Darwin's rural area produces around 16,000 trays each season.

ABC Rural understands the Vietnamese dragon fruit in southern markets has sold for up to $30 per kilogram.

dragon fruit on display
Australian growers have expressed concern over Vietnamese dragon fruit being allowed into the country. (Supplied: Vietnam Trade Office)
Mr Jenkin, who undertook a verification study for the Vietnamese dragon fruit before it arrived, said there was a rigorous import process that must be met.

"The majority of the fruit coming in will undergo a vapour heat treatment, which is where the product is heated in a high-humidity room to kill any potential pests on the product," he said.

"It is all prepared in a high-care type environment, in four specialised factories that are registered treatment providers for Australia."

Source: ABC Rural By Carl Curtain

AHEIA : Fruit imports hindered by pre-clearance withdrawal

From the new Taste Australia brand to negotiations aimed at improving market access protocols overseas, the Australian horticultural sector and government are working hard to lift the country’s fruit and vegetable shipments abroad. But a key industry trade body is concerned about what a transition away from the offshore pre-clearance programme could mean for imports, and by the very nature of bilateral trade, exports too.

“I certainly see it presenting difficulties to our trade relationships,” says Australian Horticultural Exporters’ and Importers’ Association (AHEIA) CEO Dominic Jenkin.

Jenkin tells Fresh Fruit Portal the effects are already being seen from the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources’ (DoAWR) plans to withdraw from the industry-funded import arrangement.

He says a removal of the practice complicated imports of Chinese Ya pears last season, but soon the impacts will be seen for imports from New Zealand and the United States; two programs that account for around 75,000 metric tons (MT) or AUD$300 million worth of import trade.

The DoAWR is looking to withdraw completely from pre-clearance programs by 2019-20.

“What’s happened with the removal of that [for China] is that things that were potentially discovered upon detection and refused entry on pre-clearance are now being discovered in Australia,” Jenkin says.

“The complication is that if pests are discovered in Australia you’ve now got to wait for pest identification, and depending on the result, it may lead to reconditioning or treatment, re-export or the destruction of the consignment.”

He says that whilst treatments are not great for the product, they are fairly easily applied. But disease identification should pathogens be present can take a long time.

“We had occasions last year of product being held for 40 days awaiting pest identification,” he says.

“Last year there was a significant amount of product that was impacted.

To try and reduce the disruption to trade from the removal of offshore pre-clearance inspections for Chinese pears exported to Australia, AHEIA partnered with major exporters and importers to work on capacity building to ensure the fruit continued to meet Australia’s phytosanitary conditions.

“We undertook this project using grant funds supplied by DoAWR under their Agricultural Trade and Market Access Cooperation program. We undertook this work with an understanding of the shared responsibility and a desire to ensure the further development and prosperity of trade with China,” Jenkin says.

“It is under this project that earlier in the year AHEIA went to Vietnam to ready the import value chains for the upcoming market access for dragon fruit.”

Jenkin believes a real test for the new system will be how imports of New Zealand avocados fare this year.

“New Zealand avocados is a good example there – this is the first year that they’re going through the process of removing some pre-clearance capacity, so we will be seeing arrivals non-precleared out of New Zealand over the coming months,” he says.

Anecdotally, he says the association has seen an increase in the frequency of on-shore fumigation of product.

“There is a growing understanding by the department (DoAWR) that they understand that trade is both ways – it’s just a real challenge with this particular issue.

“They’re wanting to follow global trends towards managed pathways or systems-type approaches to managing risk, which are less resource intensive in terms of staffing, but seemingly that offer the same results.

“Part of the challenge for us is if you’ve got something there that’s delivering results for all sides, why should there be such a strong drive to move in another direction?”

He adds not only does pre-clearance programs help keep biosecurity risks offshore, which is a better defense for pest and disease mitigation, but they also put less strain on import processing capacity at home.

“I think there are going to be more and more problems that we’re going to be hearing about, just because the demand for services in Australia is going to increase significantly,” he says.

“The volume of product that came in through pre-clearance was vast, and now in the absence without the implementation of any managed pathways because they’re still being confirmed, it’s going to lead to a very big increase in demand in services both for quarantine premises and for the inspectors themselves.

“So industry’s taken up the challenge there – there’s big investments in all the major ports of arrival in improved premises, so more space for imports, more fumigation chambers, more inspection rooms, to be able to cope with this increase.

“But there remains a question mark as to whether the department is as readily prepared.”

Transition details

Jenkin says the DoAWR has plans to further reduce the availability of inspectors by 2017-18, which will no doubt impact on New Zealand and the USA which account for 80% of Australia’s fruit imports.

“The majority of imported fruit from these countries has in past years utilized preclearance to varying degrees,” he said.

The move is toward a compliance-based inspection scheme, with three new schemes announced this year following a pilot for lemons and limes from the USA.

“Whilst Stonefruit and Cherries from USA scheme follow lemons and limes requiring 5 successful inspections to qualify for a reduced rate of 1 in 4 inspections, avocados from NZ require 10 successful inspections for a reduced rate of 1 in 2. This is unlikely to be workable for the importers of NZ avocados,” he says.

Source: www.freshfruitportal.com