AUSTRALIA: Fruit exporters say technical barriers to trade in Asia costs billions of dollars

by Sarina Locke, ABC


Horticultural exporters say they’re being locked out of billions of dollars of trade in Asia and the Pacific export markets.


Australia’s domestic fruit and vegetable market is oversupplied, and there is a growing list of Asian countries that have stopped importing because of pests and diseases.


Michelle Christoe of the Australian Horticulture Exporters Association refers to technical barriers to trade, like quarantine inspections and difficulty accessing ports or storage, that cost all fresh produce between $5-$7 billion, including horticulture.


“We’ve had difficulties in existing markets like Indonesia, we’ve been locked out of Vietnam, we’ve had issues with Thailand where we were locked out for several years, and lost trade as a result,” Ms Christoe said.


The Australian citrus growers appear to have defied the trend, accessing a Chinese market that only a few years ago took no oranges, to last year buying $30 million worth.


“We have the demand in all our commodities, it’s up to DFAT (the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade) and Agriculture to work together to negotiate market access conditions in which we can trade and citrus is a good example of how we can turn an industry that is struggling to one that is extremely strong through trade.”


Australia’s largest blueberry producer Costa said it was unclear how the Department of Agriculture established its priorities.


Costa Group corporate affairs manager Michael Toby said as an example, lychee exports were being given priority over blueberries, an industry worth almost 10 times the value.


Lychees are worth $20 million per annum while the value of the blueberry industry in 2013-14 had a farmgate value of $120 million.


Blueberry growers worry about a glut on the domestic market, and yet it can not access the Chinese market because there is no ‘protocol’ over fruit fly treatment.


The Blueberry Growers Association has a plan to boost exports.


Costa is also a leading citrus producer and exporter, and fruit is sent to Shepparton for cold sterilisation treatment as a precaution for fruit fly, despite being grown in an acknowledged fruit fly free zone, in South Australia’s Riverland.


“For cold sterilisation of citrus going by ship to China; 1260 cartons in a container, at $4 a carton it equals $5000 a container,” Mr Toby said.


“Costa does 100 containers to China a year. That’s an additional $500,000 a year.”


Mr Toby said the citrus industry wanted China to recognise the fruit fly free zone of South Australia.


Source: ABC Rural

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