U.S. West Coast in sight for Aussie litchi growers - FreshFruitPortal.com

U.S. West Coast in sight for Aussie litchi growers

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U.S. West Coast in sight for Aussie litchi growers

Australian litchi growers may export 10% of their crop to the U.S. after final approval is given by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), but there are concerns the protocol may be too onerous to warrant the cost. At www.freshfruitportal.com we speak with Australian Lychee Growers Association president Ian Groves about the opportunities across the Pacific Ocean, competition with South Africa, Chinese New Year and recovery after a few tough seasons.

Biosecurity Australia is still in negotiations with U.S. officials over the fine print of a protocol for litchi exports, following tentative approval from APHIS in December. The announcement coincided with a similar tentative approval for South African litchis.

Groves cannot reveal the exact processes that are in discussion but says some of the measures proposed may be 'prohibitive', as the 400 metric tons (MT) the industry would like to air freight to the U.S. may not be enough to cover the expense.

Regardless of what the fine print ends up as, he is still positive about the opportunities in the U.S. market as an addition to an export portfolio that is focused on Singapore and Hong Kong, as well as smaller volumes to the Pacific Islands, New Zealand, the United Arab Emirates and Canada.

"We think the West Coast in the United States, particularly San Francisco and Los Angeles, would be a good market for us; I understand there is a fair sized Asian community in San Francisco so that would be a positive market for Australia," he says.

"Vietnam, along with China and Thailand are on the other side of the equator so they’re counterseasonal to us, which means our competition would be South Africa, and we'd be competing on a different level.

"South Africa tends to ship and sulphur dioxide their product, whereas in Australia we don't do that; we air freight, so we’ve got a more expensive product, but we also have better varieties, smaller seeded varieties than South Africa."

Australia's target window for the U.S. litchi market would be between December and January.

Groves says prices were very good in the lead-up to Chinese New Year, both in Asia and at home given the size of Australia's Asian community.

"But, they've (prices) dropped pretty substantially in the last week or two with big volumes coming from south Queensland.

"Some growers take advantage of the Chinese New Year, but it was much earlier than normal this year, and our season’s been about 10-14 days later than normal in their harvest dates.

"It actually helped some growers but it’s been a disadvantage to the later growers."

He says this season has been good for volume compared to previous years.

"We’ve had a couple of bad seasons; last year was probably the worst we’ve had in 20 years through a combination of things. There was no winter in North Queensland – there was only three days of 15 degrees in Mareeba which is a major growing area, so they didn’t flower up there.

"In Rockhampton where I am, we had major floods and a lot of rain and it downgraded the quality, and of course we couldn’t get the fruit to market because of floods."

Related stories: SA litchi growers upbeat on exports after U.S. approval

Australia and South Africa get U.S. litchi green light

Vietnam to take chunk of U.S. exotic fruit market

Photo: Australian Tropical Foods


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