Australia: Tasmania aims high in China amid media spotlight
A delegation from the Australian state of Tasmania has toured China to stir up interest in its agricultural products, capitalizing on President Xi Jinping's trip to the apple and cherry-growing island last year.
The president's visit in December brought Tasmania under the spotlight of the Chinese media, and recently an Australian trade mission led by Tasmanian Minister for State Growth Matthew Groom was drumming up investment in the state's fresh produce, wine and tourism sectors.
Groom told www.freshfruitportal.com the delegation visited Hainan Island, Fuzhou, Beijing, and Shanhai, where a special dinner with some 300 guests was held to display the best fresh produce Tasmania had to offer.
"The island of Tasmania is a beautiful yet somewhat mysterious place south of the Australian continent," he said.
"We have the best air and water quality, as well as the safest quarantine conditions. This is why apples and cherries from Tasmania are allowed to be exported directly into China."
During the 2014-15 season, more than 300 metric tons (MT) of Tasmanian cherries were shipped to mainland China, making it the second-largest export destination for Australian cherries.
Groom spoke highly of the visit made last year by the Chinese president and his wife Peng Liyuan, saying it had been followed by 'significant growth' in Chinese demand for Tasmanian goods.
"The number of Chinese tourists visiting our state surged by 49%. Now we're working with Chinese government to bring collaboration further," he said.
Australian blueberries are said to be the next on the list to be granted access to the Chinese market.
"We have a lot of potential for growth with our fruit production capacity. Of course our production is, relatively speaking, quite small when compared with the sheer size of the Chinese market, but we are confident that the market share of Tasmanian fruits in mainland China will soon increase," Groom said.
"What I would like to highlight is that premium Tasmanian fruits will be always the freshest and safest on the market, even as our export volume to China continues to rise."
Groom also mentioned the Tasmanian government was planning an expansion of the Hobart International Airport in order to launch a direct flight to China, with the representative saying he was 'certain' the project would soon gain momentum.
In addition, he said the state government would continue to explore collaboration opportunities for Tasmanian cherries with high-end Chinese produce retailers this year, while also making efforts to ensure the fruit's premium quality.
Tasmanian walnuts, honey, cream and seafood like salmon and lobsters are also said to have great potential in China, with Australian beef recently gaining Chinese market access.
Furthermore, the Tasmanian government has been engaged in conversations with the Fujian Provincial government in launching Tasmania Week and Fujian Week celebrations in each country.
Groom also believes the free trade agreement (FTA) that was recently signed between China and Australia is a great opportunity for both countries, especially in kickstarting new investment and cultural exchange initiatives.
Some observers, however, expressed concerns over the FTA's impact on labor issues.
"I understand that there some voices out there that oppose to these new changes, but we strongly believe the agreement will help boost economic growth for both China and Australia," Groom said.