AU: Top End mango grower hoping for increased exports to U.S.

A Top End mango grower hopes his first shipment to the United States of America can lead to greater and more regular export volumes to the country, especially from an earlier window to match the harvest season.

The shipment of 720 trays that left this week from Tou's Garden in Acacia Hills, near Darwin, was the first from the region, after other growers had previously exported from Katherine as a trial in recent years. Ian Quin says if it was up to him he would have sent the fruit earlier but there was a legal and bureaucratic process that needed to be followed.

"We've been pushing for an earlier opening to the season," he told ABC Radio. "We would have liked to have started at the beginning of August, which is more suitable to the top end to fill windows from then on. I am sure that will happen and the process will be rationalised and streamlined."

Photo courtesy of Tou's Garden Facebook page

Mr Quin says Australian produce must target the top end of the market in the U.S. as there are much cheaper alternatives from South America available, but he still believes there is enough demand.

"We have to operate at the very top end of the market," he said. "But that's OK there is 350 million of them, and if we only pick up five per cent of that, we are doing very well. There is a market there for quality fruit, just as there is a market for lower end of the volume. For example, I am told there are some mangoes being sold for five dollars a box, coming from Mexico at some times of the year. But they are probably pretty rough. As an industry we can only send something that is different and high quality."

This shipment is expected to arrive within two weeks, and the company will be able to monitor the produce through a Bluetooth temperature system, providing real time information that may be able to be corrected to ensure ideal environmental conditions in transit.

"The aim of the new logger is to spot where there are glitches, hold-ups, temperature changes and breakdowns in equipment," he explained in the interview. "Then you can go to the trucker and say, why is this sitting in Alice Springs for two days without registration? Has the refrigeration broken down? Why is it sitting at 25 degrees and not 16? We've had this a few times sending to New Zealand where it rocks up at 28 degrees - and guess who cops it."

He says locally, the industry needs to address two major problems, including the inadequate visa system for suitable returning labour.

"The current seasonal workers program system is predicated on traditional recipients having problems of chronic learned helplessness, resulting in very high supervision costs of workers," Mr Quin said. "Another problem for the industry is the replication of compliance audits - and the subsequent cost in time and money. We have had 11 so far.

For more information:
Ian Quin
Tou's Garden
Phone: +61 8 8988 5858

Publication date: 10/6/2017
Author: Matthew Russell

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