The cherry harvest will start on Wednesday in New South Wales, the earliest state in Australia for cherries.
“We will not export the first fruit as it is a bit too soft to make the journey for export in good condition but it is great for the domestic market in Australia. They are a great tasting cherry. Buyers are already asking for our fruit but we will wait before exporting, we should have export quality fruit in around six days time,” explains Sam Vasala from Sai World.
Sai World exports stone fruit, citrus, grapes, mangoes to Vietnam, China, India, Singapore, Canada and Korea.
It has been a good growing season for stone fruit and according to Sam the crop is looking good. “The challenge this season will be getting air freight, it is a bit of a waiting game to see what will be available. There are flights available, but they will be expensive and add to the cost of produce, but everyone is in the same boat. That said things are looking better as we go on.
“Cherries are an expensive product in normal times, but this season they will cost $5-7 more per kilo. Buyers are more confident about buying premium product than they were a few months ago and people who were willing to buy expensive fruit last year are still willing to pay for it this year.”
Sam said that the big issue will be for peaches which may see an increase of between $6-8 per kilo as they cannot go by ocean only by air.
The lack of air freight and higher cost could result in the domestic market becoming saturated with peaches, but only time will tell on that said Sam.
But it’s not just the cost or availability of air freight which will be challenging, freight can only be booked 72 hours in advance and once booked you cannot cancel, so exporters must ensure that fruit is picked and packed just in time for the flights, and pray that the flight doesn’t get cancelled which could be a logistical nightmare if it’s not well planned or unexpected problems arise.
Shortage of labour is an on going issue throughout Australia as there are hardly any backpackers and movement of people around the country is severely limited, but Sam is hopefully that with the citrus season coming to an end the labour will become available so it may be not be a big issue just harder than in the past.
“It seems that everyone is doing their bit to ensure things go well, we don’t know exactly the availability of the flights, but we will export nevertheless.
“This year it will definitely be quality over quantity. If air freight is in short supply and prices are high, we must ensure that only top-notch fruit is loaded. We always send high quality but this year it will become an even bigger priority.”
The plum harvest will start around the 15th of November and Sai World are doing things a bit differently this season.
“In the past we have dominated air freight plums into India, this year we will send them by sea. The journey takes 30-40 days due to heavy delays in Australian ports so we will be looking closely at the whole chain starting from picking to make sure the fruit is of the highest quality. We have our own import company in India so we can control the whole process. Indian consumers love the taste of Australian plums and this year we will be sending them by the container.”