Australia lychee growers get set for first US shipment

Australian lychee growers are preparing for their first shipment of fruit to the US this December.

The shipment will see the start of a three-year pilot program exporting lychees to the continental US (except the state of Florida).

Australian Lychee Growers Association Executive Officer Jill Houser says a slower start to the season and establishment of the export procedures means the first shipments are likely to be quite small.

“The lychees from north Queensland are a little late this season and there’s not as much tonnage as previous years,” she says.

“We also need to do the initial dose mapping on 3 pallets of lychee; an inspection [or] audit is done, with the results sent to the USA to get the load configuration approval. Arrangements are being made this Monday and once approved – if volume and orders are there – we should be able to start exporting to the US.”

Ms Houser says the fluctuations this season make it hard to estimate the volume of the initial shipment to the US, but expects it to be small.

“We only have a small number of growers, three exporters and two importers taking part in the Year One trial, so this will result in a lower quantity being exported to the US this season,” she says.

At this stage, the main variety that is planned for export is the Kwai May Pink, described on the Australian Lychee Growers Association website as: “A great eating lychee developed in Australia with a small to medium seed…they have a red skin with a slight orange hue and tend to be more round.”

The fruit will be available for consumers in US supermarkets and greengrocers, with Ms Houser saying Australian growers are expected to get a price equivalent to what they would get on the domestic market, if not slightly higher due to the cost and effort involved in the export process.

She says opening up the export market is a way to address seasonal surplus.

“We find when there is too much fruit on the domestic market, the price drops and the grower suffers,” she says. “So the more fruit we can send to export markets will help maintain a reasonable return to the grower from domestic markets.”

The Australian lychee industry currently produces around 3000 tonnes of fruit every year, with export estimated to be between 20% and 35% of this production.

The new US trial has been developed in collaboration with the United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), and the National Plant Protection Organization (NPPO) of Australia, which have jointly set up an operational work plan for the program. Ms Houser says only eight growers are involved in the first shipments to the US, but expects more growers will register their orchards and packhouses as the trial matures.

Australian lychees are also currently exported to countries including New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia, Tahiti, Hong Kong, Middle East, Canada, the UK and Europe, with plans to expand further in the future.

For more information:
Jill Houser
Australian Lychee Growers Association
Tel: +61 417 639 927

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