Aussie stonefruit set for 2011-12 recovery - FreshFruitPortal.com

Aussie stonefruit set for 2011-12 recovery

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Aussie stonefruit set for 2011-12 recovery

A series of natural disasters such as floods and hail damaged Australia's stonefruit industry last year, but this season the flowering and soil content is looking strong. Fruit from Queensland and New South Wales is already on the domestic shelves while exports will be underway soon.

Summerfruit Australia manager Ian McAlister says export volumes will depend on the exchange rate, but if the currency stays at current levels the country will likely ship between 15% and 25% of its crop.

Provided the industry doesn't suffer any weather issues like it did last year, this would mean exports of between 15,000-25,000 metric tons (MT).

"It all depends on the value of the Australian dollar - if it stays high like it has been then the industry won't export as much, but if it drops below the US$0.99 mark like it did last month then we expect higher export volumes," McAlister has told www.freshfruitportal.com.

"The majority of it goes to Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand, the United Arab Emirates, Dubai, and a little bit to Vietnam."

He says the first shipments will likely hit the shelves in Hong Kong in early December with white peaches and nectarines, while competition will likely be strong with Chile and South Africa.

"South Africa and Chile are big competitors but we can get there sooner - they take about 30 days and we’re only 12," he says.

"When the Chilean lots come in and they’re a lot cheaper, we find it a lot harder. South Africa’s production costs are around a third of ours so the only thing we can compete with this is quality."

He says the country's 800 growers produce nectarines, plums, apricots and peaches between October and April, with a 25% rise in production over the last decade.

"Last year we probably would have seen an over-supply, but the havoc caused by the extreme weather events meant a lot of saturated fruit didn't meet our quality standards and simply didn't get picked.

"The reports we're getting from our key growing areas is that we're well and truly on track to meet demand and we have our fingers crossed for no severe frosts and no hailstorms during the fruit's formative stages.

"We're extremely proud of our growers - like any Australian in the workforce they're not shy in confronting and overcoming obstacles. They were hit by dramatic climate upheaval, but showed strength of character and extraordinary resilience to rollup their sleeves and prevail."

Photos: Summerfruit Australia

Related story: Aussie cherries could take on Chile in China

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