China's coronavirus impact on Australia's fruit exports

The coronavirus is spreading quickly in China and is now also reaching other countries. In China, the wholesale markets for fruit and vegetables are still open following the Chinese New Year Day, but they are much quieter than expected. “Generally during the Chinese New Year, most people are on holidays and businesses are closed for five days. Therefore, sales on the wholesale market always go a bit slower than normal. This year, however, is extreme due to the coronavirus,” said Lisa from the Queensland Food Corporation, a leading Australian fruit grower and exporter located in Queensland, Australia.

Lisa is exporting 4,000kgs of premium plums from Australia, but delayed the airfreight just before it boarded the plane on the 27th of January after seeing photos of empty markets in both Guangzhou and Shanghai. She had to postpone the scheduled shipment, as she explains. “There are no trading activities right now inside both fruit markets which normally attract many professional buyers from all over China. I was very concerned with the current situation that the sales would not meet initial expectations. We made a difficult decision to put the shipment on hold and assess what the better option is. Should we continue to pursue the Chinese market or return to the Australian domestic market? It is stressful to make that final call considering we have paid all the export costs upfront for the airfreight, which is not cheap.”

Lisa said that at the largest fruit market in Guangzhou, you can hear the loudspeaker reminding people to wear face masks at all times, as per the government requirement. It is also compulsory for all visitors entering the market to wear face masks in order to not spread or be infected by the virus. Normally there are hundreds of trucks moving in and out of the market trading fruits during the busy morning period, but you hardly see any right now.

Although the fruit price is stable at the moment, the lack of trading activities and buyers makes the forecast unpredictable. “We look at the market day by day. We expect that in the coming week, there might be some more activity again, but we need to see and wait.”

On the 28th of January, Lisa approached a leading China state-owned retailer Shanghai G-Super to seek their support during this difficult time. With both businesses having signed a Memorandum of Understanding during the China Import Expo CIIE in November 2019, G-Super has quickly stepped in and agreed to take as many sugar plums as they can to supply to their stores. G-Super‘s third-party logistics partner, were called in to facilitate the logistics and delivery to all stores that can be reached by the limited national transport network as some national roads have been closed off to avoid further virus outbreak, not all stores can be reached and serviced, unfortunately.

Lisa mentioned: "Within a few hours, G- Super senior management’s support has changed the rather stressful situation for me. I couldn’t express my appreciation of G-Super’s kind support to honor the agreement signed during the CIIE Expo. CIIE Expo is a great event to meet existing and new customers in China and to promote international business. We have been participating in CIIE Expo since its first event in 2018 and will continue to support CIIE in 2020.” Lisa said, ”Overall, the Year of Rat has a had bumpy start for a lot of people due to the virus and we hope the year ahead will be getting better soon.”

Queensland Food Corporation is an Australian company established as a farmers Co-Op located in Queensland and specializes in exporting Australian fruits, beef and seafood to the world. 

For more information:
Queensland Food Corporation 
Tel: +61 7 38498879

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