Vietnam to stop fresh fruit imports from AU just as harvest begins

Australian cherry and grape growers have received disturbing news about yet another Asian country blocking fruit imports.

An email received from a Vietnamese importer says:
"We are now very shocked to be informed by Vietnam plan protection Departement that from the date of 1st Jan, 2015, we are not permitted to import any fresh fruits from Australia. This is really unreasonable and we could not accept."

Australia's Department of Agriculture (DoA) has confirmed that Vietnam has 'raised concerns with Australia's fruit fly management systems and is considering suspending trade in Australian fruit'. The market is worth about $40 million, including grapes and cherries.

Alan Bramble, general manager of Caernarvon Cherry Co at Orange, says it may not affect this year's cherry exports, but it is bad news.

"At this stage, I don't believe our customer has been advised why. The last thing we need now is our exports drying up. It will put a sizeable hole in next year's export program."

Cherry Growers Australia says it's a significant market that will affect this season's harvest.

Australia sent a total of 143 tonnes last year; with NSW accounting for 20 tonnes, Victoria 61 tonnes, and Tasmania 62 tonnes. The total is estimated at more than $2million, more than half went after January.

Export protocols have been worked out with China and Thailand.

Mr Bramble says with these countries there is sea freight cold treatment for fruit fly, and Indonesia requires fumigation to prevent fruit fly.

"There are fruit fly in many district and it requires good management."

Australia is having a poor run of Asian markets closing mostly due to fruit fly concerns, and cheaper suppliers, like Chile, moving in.

"Over the last three or four years, we've not seen any new air freight export markets open up, whereas we've seen two or three certainly close," Mr Bramble said. "As far as creating new opportunities, very little has occurred in recent years."

A Department of Agriculture spokesperson says Australia is working with the Vietnamese Government to provide additional information about fruit fly management and control.

Business Development Manager for Fruit Growers Tasmania Phil Pyke says they are trying to clarify whether Tasmania fruit will be exempt from the ban.

Phil Pyke says Tasmania is fruit fly free and this means cherries can be exported into China, one of the toughest markets for protocols.

"Our fruit growers are good at finding other markets, so I think there would be no problems finding those markets if the ban on fresh fruit also includes Tasmania", Mr Pyke says.

Source: abc.net.au

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