Stone fruit growers across Australia are faced with tough decisions as the COVID pandemic has raised air freight costs, wreaking havoc on export markets.
The latest USDA report on Australian stone fruit production is forecasting a 17 per cent decline in exports of peaches and nectarines for the 2020/2021 season. The report highlights the fact that despite the Federal Government's International Freight Assistance Mechanism (IFAM) program supporting exporters to secure air freight space, freight costs for exporters are more than double pre-COVID levels.
While Australian growers are already changing their strategies by moving more produce onto high waters this season, some varieties, such as white flesh peaches, are simply not suited for weeks at sea.
CEO of Summerfruit Australia Trevor Ranford said while industry and farmers were closely working with the government and export partners, they have had to look at longer-term options and plans. Besides the air freight challenges, he highlighted labour availability for the upcoming harvest, starting in October, was a major concern for the industry.