A leading Australian fresh produce export company plans to expand its international customer base for apricots this year, despite some challenges from COVID-19, which has impacted the industry.
H2A Trading, based in Sydney, focuses on the global supply of fruit and vegetables from Australia, and Export Director Moe Sherkawi remains confident of a good summer, despite admitting that it is a very unique season in 2020.
"Firstly, workers are the main problem for most of the growers, as the borders are closed and backpackers can’t move between states easily," he said. "Also, freight cost has been extremely expensive and nearly tripled for some destinations like Saudi Arabia and Bahrain - even with the International Freight Assistance Mechanism (IFAM) support. The price is still high and we're not sure if customers in the region will accept the new prices."
Photo: Moe and Ahmad Sherkawi from H2A Trading
H2A’s shipments are consolidated in a state-of-the-art facility located minutes away of Sydney International Airport and Sydney port which Sherkawi says means that customers are provided with products and services in the most efficient manner. The company sources most of the fruit from Victoria.
"Mainly Shepperton, Swan Hill and Cobram are the richest areas for Australian apricot," Mr Sherkawi said. "The apricot season looks good; a lot of rain, but the weather is good. We are four weeks away from the apricot season, which will run from November until early March. Cherries, mango and apricot are the biggest three Australian fruits exported into the Middle East. We have been following up with growers on weekly basis and everyone is happy with the fruit quality and weather so far. We hope mother nature does not hide anything else."
Mr Sherkawi explains that the company sources premium quality fruit from local markets and growers across Australia for customers in the Middle East and the Asia Pacific regions.
"The Middle East is the main apricot market this year," Mr Sherkawi said. "But we are working with new customers in Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia. There's also a different variety of apricot. We have different markets as Asians prefer sweet apricots, however Middle Easterners prefer more sour Apricots. There is always big demand for Australian Fruit due to the quality and flavour of the fruit. Also, farmers have generations of experience and food safety measures to ensure the tastiest and safest fruits are delivered to the consumer."
Overall apricot exports from Australia grew by 39 per cent in the financial year ending June 2019, according to the latest industry data from Hort Innovation, to 561 tonnes. The value of apricot exports also increased by 25 per cent to $2.4million. Exports account for just six per cent of overall apricot production in Australia, which in that calendar year reached 9,027 tonnes - up by 17 per cent.