New South Wales cherry growers turning to Chinese buyers

Cherry Growers Association Australia president Tom Eastlake is preparing for what could be a game-changing season. Eastlake is one of the many cherry growers around Young (New South Wales) gearing up to export their produce to China for the first time, thanks to relaxed new trade laws.

The climate around Young makes it prime territory for cherries and the NSW Department of Primary Industry said the Young region has seen some of the highest numbers of farmers registering to export to China in the state.

Growers have previously been restricted to sea-freighting their cherries to mainland China market because of Queensland fruit fly contamination fears. Now a new free-trade agreement between Australia and China has allowed growers to airfreight their produce after treating it for fruit fly.

Before the agreement, only growers in Tasmania could airfreight to mainland China, thanks to the island state being fruit fly free, while mainland Australian growers could export to Hong Kong.

But Eastlake said Chile was Australia's biggest competitor for the Chinese market. The South American nation could produce 200,000 tonnes of cherries this season, Mr Eastlake said, while Australian growers are hopeful for a record season this year of 18,000 tonnes.

"But it can be six weeks before the consumers are eating it [Chilean cherries]," Mr Eastlake said, with the majority of Chilean cherries moved by sea freight. Now, theoretically, Young cherries could find themselves on mainland Chinese shelves three days after being picked.

"You just can't beat something that's 72 hours from the tree. You just can't do it. The flavour's better. The appearance is better," he said. "Nowhere in the world can get things to South-East Asia as quickly as we can."

He said growers in Australia needed to get at least $8 a kilogram for cherries just to remain in the industry. "There's no money in it at $7 or $8. We're not making money hand over fist. We're not out there buying Rolls Royces."

Source: canberratimes.com.au via www.freshplaza.com