China and Thailand on the horizon for Australian cherry exporters
Cherry Growers Australia CEO Simon Boughey says protocol negotiations for market access in China and Thailand are on track for the 2012-13 season or perhaps earlier, but there are still a few sticking points that need to be solved.
Boughey tells www.freshfruitportal.com representatives from Thailand's Department of Agriculture will be visiting in the last week of November and the first week of December to carry out an audit as part of finalizing protocols for cherries, other stonefruit, strawberries and tomatoes.
"They have a fairly extensive program going into all states in Australia, and they will be looking at the Steritech center for irradiation in Brisbane, which is ideal for treating Medfly and Qfly prior to export into Thailand by air freight," he says.
He adds the industry is pushing for acceptance of a methyl bromide treatment from Thai authorities, so that exporters can air freight the fruit into the South East Asian country.
"I’ve just got back from Bangkok, and there’s a lot of frustration from that side - supermarkets like Tops and Makro who also want to bring in the fruit, so I’ve asked them to assist in the process from their end as we all need to work on this for the benefit of the Australian industry and the companies and consumers in Thailand.
"I've also asked DAFF [Australia's Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry] if they can go back to Thailand to request for transitional arrangements for 2012-13 while the audit is going on until the protocol is in place next year, so we can export this season as we have had no problems in sending fruit to Thailand with no protocol over the last 20 years.
"Before Australia was sending fruit there without a protocol but then trade ceased, so there are supermarkets that only have cherries for nine months of the year. There's a gap Australia can fill, especially in times like Christmas and Chinese New Year."
Boughey says DAFF and Chinese quarantine body AQSIQ are holding bilateral talks in Beijing in late October to look to finalize access for Australian cherries into China for the 2012-13 season.
"It looks like Tasmanian cherries could get in this season but this still needs to be negotiated and finalized, and we want to ensure cherries from the other states can get in too.
"Unfortunately, the Chinese currently don't recognize our East-West protocol and they don't recognize the Riverland as pest free, but we're still pushing for these options.
The Australian industry is proposing cold treatment of 3°C (37.4°F) for 14 days in-transit and on-site before Chinese cherries can get into the market, but the Chinese authorities appear set on a colder temperature because of the East-West issue.
"Even though we could use the type of system China has proposed, CGA in discussions with DAFF will push for a better protocol that ensures as many growers can export into China this season and in the future need to try and get a better deal.
"Again, we will be pushing for airfreight protocol using Methyl Bromide treatment too as an option."
He says the industry has great potential in China once it opens up for Australian cherries.
"I think in the first year we’ll probably start sending small quantities but I’d suggest it wouldn’t take long before that builds over the next few years as we compete against Chile and New Zealand.
"With air freight from Australia we have a commercial window advantage and consumers can judge for themselves."
He emphasizes consumers in Hong Kong, which is not a protocol area, recognize and enjoy the quality of Australian cherries now.
"And we want to let all Chinese have that opportunity to enjoy our product into the future.
"Once we’re in it’s up to the Australian industry and exporters to develop that export market as we aim to raise the overall exports of cherries from 20% to 50% of the overall Australian crop each year by 2020.
"I don’t think it’ll be too long before Australian cherries are going into China and Thailand.".