Australian grape growers fear their $300m a year of exports to China has become the latest casualty of the trade war with the economic powerhouse, following lengthy clearance delays at Chinese ports. Australian Table Grape Association chief executive Jeff Scott said over the past six weeks there had been a noticeable slowdown in the customs clearing of Australian grapes at Chinese ports. Although no official reason for the delays has been given by Chinese authorities, some containers were taking up to 20 days to clear, Mr Scott said. This previously took 1-2 days. “Growers and exporters are extremely concerned At this stage there hasn’t been any rejection of containers, just abnormally lengthy delays without a reason,” he said. Mr Scott said China buys about 44 per cent of Australian table grape exports, worth more than $300m, and equivalent to 3000 containers a year. About 50 per cent of Australia’s table grape production is exported. Mr Scott said with long delays at Chinese ports, containers were being moved from port to port, at substantial cost to the growers and exporters. “In some cases (during the delays) there has not been access to power (for chilling) which causes damage and impacts the quality of fruit. Therefore the price the grower receives is less than what they were expecting,” he said. Mr Scott estimated there were still about 500 container loads of grapes either in storage or in transit from this year’s harvest, and said producers were extremely concerned. He said ATGA was talking to the Australian Government, who were trying to liaise with Chinese authorities over whether there were any issues of concern. Talks are also underway between the industry and Federal Government about diversifying into new markets, Mr Scott said. Roger Fahl, owner of Fruitico, WA’s biggest table grape grower, said he reduced his own shipments to China in recent weeks because of the risks. “We have backed off the amount of fruit we’re selling into China,” he said. “We certainly have longer delays that we normally would have. Normally it clears customs in a day or two; at the moment expect a week or longer. It’s hard to quantify, nothing official but it’s definitely worse than usual. “Our Chinese importers for some time have been saying not to send any.” He said eastern states growers would feel the brunt, being big growers of a red variety called crimson seedless, of which China had been major buyers. Relations between Australia and China have continuously soured since early last year when the Morrison government called for an inquiry into the origins of COVID 19. Since then Australian agricultural commodities including barley, timber, wine and lobster have been targeted. Chinese authorities have also failed to renew licences of hay exporters upon expiry, prompting a major drop in hay seeding this year.