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Import slowdown relieves growers

Countryman

Australian apple growers may be relieved about a slow down in Chinese apple imports, but exporters say more give-and-take is needed.

Since February, Australia has imported about 750 tonnes of apples from China, but shipments of the fruit have trailed off.

Fruit West chief executive Amy Green said the decrease in imports was expected, because the Chinese apples were not up to scratch.

“Australian consumers weren’t impressed with the quality and opted to buy local apples instead,” she said.

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In June last year, Biosecurity Australia approved the importation of apples from China — a move that angered Australian growers, who were concerned that it may expose orchards to Chinese fruit fly and hurt the local industry.

However, Australian Horticultural Exporters Association representative David Minnis said Australian growers needed to accept that imports would occur.

“I understand growers’ concerns, but if we expect to ship products to other countries, it’s not unreasonable to expect something in return. That’s the way the world trades,” he said.

Mr Minnis said there were concerns that China’s large apple industry could swamp local markets, but he said freight costs were a barrier.

“China has got to make money and the freight costs to Australia are double what I pay to send a container to Hong Kong,” he said.

Mr Minnis said there was a similar situation with Chilean grapes.

“They aren’t importing grapes from Chile anymore, because of the cost,” he said. “Four weeks by sea from Chile via New Zealand; they can’t be sold cheaply.”

In addition, Mr Minnis said Japan shipped Nashi pears, persimmon and kiwi fruit to Australia, but Japanese exporters had found it was not financially viable.

“The Taiwan mango industry had access into Australia but it hasn’t been able to make it work financially either,” he said.

“Our two most successful fruit export industries are citrus and grapes and the two largest imports into Australia from America are citrus and grapes, counter seasonal, so having imports isn’t the end of the world.”

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