Poor growing conditions dampen Aussie nectarine opening in China
Cool, wet weather in Australia has led to a difficult start for the country's first season with direct access to the Chinese nectarine market, according to industry leaders.
In the publication Australian Stonefruit Grower, Summerfruit Australia CEO John Moore said the conditions delayed fruit maturing and kept sugar levels low.
He said some exporters delayed sending fruit as a result, but during a visit to Guangzhou Moore was "dismayed" at finding some pallets that averaged 7.2-7.6 Brix, which is a measure of sweetness.
"Although an average opening price for generic brand nectarines was around $90/box, by the end of that week it had fallen to $53 or lower," Moore said in the publication.
"Operators were very unhappy about paying 130 to 150 Yuan ($25 to $30) to move product from Hong Kong to Guangzhou, only to be unable to sell it due to the poor quality."
The association's chairman Andrew Finlay said difficult growing conditions in Eastern Australia over the spring created challenges for the industry to deliver on Chinese importer expectations.
"The lower brix levels, and an understanding of the quality of fruit that Chinese consumers prefer, led a number of Australian growers and exporters to choose to not send direct shipments until quality levels improved," Finlay said.
"These decisions should be applauded by the industry because it demonstrates a long-term view to a commitment in developing a reputation for Australian nectarines and positioning us as a supplier of high-quality product."
He said it was unfortunate not all involved in the stonefruit industry shared this commitment.
"The actions of a few can impact upon the rest of industry by creating a poor initial impression of new season fruit from Australia. It is disappointing to see, following years of investment, negotiating and hard work by industry and DoAWR (Department of Agriculture and Water Resources) to secure this direct market access," he said.
However, after the tough start weather conditions have improved in Australia's major production regions since December, Finlay said.
This has led to recent shipments of Australian nectarines that are far more suited to Chinese requirements, but he said the arrival of Chilean nectarines recently will mean the Australian fruit needs to be of a high standard to yield acceptable farmgate returns.
Moore added the first Australian nectarine arrivals in China also coincided with Chilean airfreight shipments of cherries to the country, with Brix rates around 18-19 compared to nectarines from Australia that were achieving 13.5 Brix at best.
Moore said a mascot called Mr Nectarine was a real hit in China, as a "show-stopper" at Shanghai's Huizhan Market and a popular subject for photos at the iFresh Trade Show in Beijing in November.