Vietnam’s finalized protocol for Australian cherry imports has given growers what they were hoping for, recognizing two key growing regions as pest-free areas (PFA) while allowing for irradiation or cold disinfestation treatment for fruit from other parts of the country.
In the protocol published by the Australian Department of Agriculture and Water Resources (DoAWR) last week, Vietnam recognized the state of Tasmania and the Riverland district of South Australia as being free from both Queensland fruit fly (Bactrocera tryoni) and Mediterranean fruit fly (Ceratitis capitata).
“Fruit sourced from these areas is not required to undergo treatment. Inspection of fruit from these areas must be conducted in a registered export establishment located within the same pest free area,” the DoAWR said.
The South East Asian country was a promising emerging market for the sector until a ban on Australian imports was implemented in January, 2015 to address concerns around Mediterranean fruit fly; a pest that is only present in the isolated state of Western Australia.
In 2014, Australia exported 256 metric tons (MT) of cherries to Vietnam with a value of US$2.97 million, according to UN Comtrade data.
While this only represents a small percentage of total exports, the situation was similar for other horticultural Australian crops like citrus and table grapes, which were both given protocols in time for recovery in 2016.
For citrus, Vietnamese-bound exports rose from US$1.25 million before the ban to US$3.5 million after the protocol was granted, while in table grapes they dropped to very low levels from US$27.4 million and made a partial recovery last year to US$12.2 million.
As part of the bilateral trade negotiations, Australia has opened its doors to imports of Vietnamese litchis, mangoes, and more recently dragon fruit.
Cherry Growers Australia (CGA) CEO Tom Eastlake outlined expectations for Vietnam in an interview with Fresh Fruit Portal in August, when he explained a “monster crop” was on the cards.
“Vietnam was a building market for us until it closed in 2015 and we’ve unfortunately been on the outer looking in – we’ve seen the success of the Australian table grape industry with their access reestablished,” he said.
“Citrus and table grapes have had enormous success over the last few years trading into Vietnam and we haven’t been able to participate. We can see how that market is advancing and we’re very glad to be part of it again.”
The U.S. was the leading supplier of cherries to the Vietnamese market last year with US$4.7 million worth of exports, followed by New Zealand with US$4 million and Canada at US$3.5 million.
The world’s leading cherry exporter, Chile, has so far only kept a minor presence in the Vietnamese market.