AUSTRALIA: Importing ‘mango madness’

Queensland mango farmers are “scratching their heads” over a trade deal that will see the first trays of mangoes arrive from Indonesia, putting them in direct competition with the local harvest.


Indonesian media are reporting the country will soon begin exporting mangoes and dragon fruit to Australia, “a decision made during the 21st meeting of the Working Group on Agriculture, Food and Forestry Cooperation between Australia and Indonesia held in Melbourne”.



Bowen Gumlu Growers’ Association president Carl Walker says it is “a recipe for disaster”.


The grower said initially he assumed the import move was due to mangoes becoming “an all-year-round” dietary trend, similar to avocados, with imports filling the gap between local seasons.


But with reports from Indonesia the first trays are due to arrive on Australian shores in October, Mr Walker said Indonesian companies should “expect to go broke pretty quick” competing with the local harvest.


“The only time you should be looking (overseas) for mangoes is outside our growing season,” Mr Walker said.


But he said “sometimes, common sense doesn’t come into it” when it came to big trade deals. “It’s a decision made by big companies… all we can do as growers is put pressure on major suppliers to support Australia first,” Mr Walker said.


The Bowen and Gumlu growing region produces $18.6million of mangoes a year, and an additional $10M of processed fruit in their production months of November and December.


While he was still gathering facts about what the Indonesian import move would mean to his growers, Mr Walker hoped customers made the right choices at the checkout.


“At the end of the day, you’d hope people would look at the two mangoes and go for the Australian one,” he said.


Whitsunday MP Jason Costigan is livid, saying not only are the economic impacts going to hurt North Queensland farmers, the biosecurity risk was high.


“It would appear our iconic Bowen mango is under attack from Jakarta with some help from Canberra,” he said.


“I remember the papaya fruit fly outbreak in north Queensland in 1992 quite well. I remember the roadblocks between Townsville and Ingham to help curtail the spread of the outbreak in relation to paw paws.


“I remember motorists stopped on the Bruce Highway and vigorously checked because the authorities had fears of the fruit fly problem spreading.”


With the new Federal Agricultural Minister David Littleproud in the region this week, Mr Costigan was “giving him the benefit of the doubt” it was out of his hands when he spoke to growers in Bowen knowing there was a trade deal in place potentially putting their livelihoods at risk.


“I would have brought it up with (Mr Littleproud) when he was in Proserpine this week but I wasn’t aware of the situation until (Thursday night),” Mr Costigan said.


“I’m amazed that he wasn’t grilled about it during his visit to north Queensland… I suspect some of these matters pre-date his arrival in the industry, he seems like a decent bloke.”


The Whitsunday MP also spoke with Dawson MP George Christensen who Mr Costigan said was “on the same page”.


“I’m all for exploring trade opportunities for our primary producers, but why aren’t we exporting our mangoes on planes in Proserpine and flying them to south-east Asia?” Mr Costigan said.


“I think one day we’ll be able to realise that dream, but right now we’re actually doing the opposite.”


He called on Mr Littleproud to come back to North Queensland, along with the Minister for Trade Steven Ciobo “and explain what the hell is going on” to local growers. “Mango madness, that’s just an understatement.”


A spokesperson for Minister Littleproud responded to local farmers’ concerns by saying agricultural trade was a two-way street.


“Australian farmers rely on exporting around 70 per cent of their produce overseas. Our exports rely on open agricultural trade,” the spokesperson said.


“If Australia locks the door to imports, other countries retaliate by blocking our exports and the entire Australian agriculture industry falls over,” the spokesperson said.


The spokesperson said news of possible mango imports was “not new” and an import risk assessment was completed in 2015 after industry consultation.


“The Australian mango industry is iconic with a strong national and international reputation and opening up of new export markets coupled with the reputation Australian mangoes have with Australian consumers will minimise any effects from these imports,” they said.


The Minister’s office did not provide a response when asked why Mr Littleproud did not discuss the issue with farmers during this week’s visit.


Written by Cas Garvey, Daily Mercury

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