Australian table grape growers expect higher returns for 2022 crop

Australian table grape growers have been harvesting since mid-January and expect that the 2022 could surpass the sales volume of its 2021 results.

According to a report from AusTrade, China remains the main market for grape growers, and sales are expected to surpass last year’s total of over AUS$660 million (US$449 million).

The report added that despite the turbulence of the past two years, China remains a strong market for local growers.

“We are still shipping every day to China,” said third generation table grape grower Rocky Mammone, who is based in the Sunraysia region. “We have developed really good long-term relationships and friendships with our customers over more than 10 years and they remain solid.”

Mammone says the sheer size and relative stability of the Chinese market allows growers to grow, invest and diversify to new markets. Besides China, he exports to Korea, Japan, Indonesia, Singapore and the Middle East.

Tim Milner is a fourth-generation grower of Australian table grapes. His family has been exporting grapes to China for almost a decade. He has a positive and beneficial relationship with his Chinese buyer. He met his buyer during a visit to Sunraysia by a Chinese delegation in 2015.

Milner says he has learned immeasurable lessons during his time exporting to the world’s largest market.

“We have spent a lot of time learning and understanding what buyers and consumers in China want,’ he says. ‘We have worked closely with our buyer to refine our presentation and taste,” Milner added.

Challenges in the industry have been mostly pandemic-related. Complex freight delays compounded by lockdowns across Asia presented many headaches. 

These problems were alleviated, in part, by assistance from the International Freight Assistance Mechanism (IFAM). IFAM is a temporary, targeted, emergency support measure put in place by the Australian Government to keep global air links open in response to the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the report, the AUS$72.7 million Agribusiness Expansion Initiative has also been critical in helping exporters maintain their relationships with buyers. The program supports Australian agricultural exporters seeking to diversify their market base while continuing to grow sales in existing markets.

Last year's export volume was hampered by container availability and rising transport costs.

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