A report by consultancy group Fresh Intelligence, which analysed of data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) to November last year, said the exports were the highest in a decade.
It added the result confirmed a turn-around from the low base in 2014 of less than 2,000MT as the industry seeks to redevelop export trade.
The report’s author, consultant Wayne Prowse, said the U.K. topped the list of importers of Australian apples, with 1,300MT of Pink Lady exported to retailers during August and September. All in all the market received 23.8% of apple exports.
He explained this figure was 90% higher year-on-year and could be largely explained by lower imports from other sources, the devaluation of the British pound in the wake of Brexit, and the strong support for Pink Lady apple promotions run by a subsidiary of Apple and Pear Australia Ltd (APAL).
However, he noted that APAL’s focus on export development has been in the Asian markets, which has seen mixed results.
“India, Thailand and Taiwan are the largest apple importers in Asia each importing between 150 and 200 thousand tonnes each, yet Australia’s trade to these markets were 62,236 and 23 tonnes respectively,” Prowse said.
“In perspective, we remain a small player and must compete with China, New Zealand, Chile and the United States who supply the bulk of the apples to these markets. Importantly these markets, along with Singapore and Malaysia have limited apple production due to their tropical climates and are more reliant on imports for their needs.
“Mainland market access remains an impediment to developing trade particularly to Taiwan, while competitive pricing and servicing remains a challenge when competing with export focused suppliers such as New Zealand and Chile, or the sheer scale of China.”
He went onto say that direct trade to China, almost all from Tasmania, dropped from 204MT in 2015 to 79MT in 2016.
“China produces over 40 million tonnes of apples each year, and exported over 1.1 million tonnes in 2016 mostly to other Asian markets that are in Australia’s sights,” he said.
“Imports by China were around 70,000 tonnes in 2016 with United States, New Zealand and Chile supplying some 93 per cent of the apples imported.
“Australia’s market development in China has been focused on the premium online distribution channels rather than traditional wet markets or retail chains. Australian apples to Hong Kong lifted 50 per cent to 304 tonnes.”
Exports to Indonesia rose 176% to 634MT, recovering most of the trade lost in the past three years with the import condition issues. Malaysia doubled to 261MT and the United Arab Emirates, a newer market for Australia, also doubled to 410MT.
Following the U.K., the Australian apple industry’s next most important markets in terms of volume are Papua New Guinea (19.7%), Indonesia (12%) and Malaysia (7.2%).