An Australian exporter says the recent wet weather experienced in east coast growing regions has led to a later start than normal to the cherry season but expects demand to remain high into the New Year.
SSM Enterprises is a family company, based in Sydney, and is run by Sonia Ahuja and her daughter Devyani. The cherry season generally commences in the last week of October but this year it has been delayed due to the wet weather.
"It has been a late-season for us due to the wet weather – we barely got any sunshine over the last few weeks," Sonia explained. "This has further impacted the ripening of the fruit. We export both stone fruits and cherries during this period and the downpour has delayed the harvest - it will be a huge effort for the growers to pick the ripened fruit."
Photo source: SSM Fruits Instagram page
Devyani added the markets that the company supplies cherries to are Vietnam, India, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Hong Kong - and in comparison, to previous years, the reach is definitely growing into new markets. The focus for the Ahuja family has been exports and they do not supply to domestic markets yet, but she says there is a huge potential and will explore supplying within Australia as well.
"There is a strong demand from our consumers particularly from all of our export markets, but the flight availability and rates have been a challenge," she said. "Our emphasis has always been on delivering premium quality and the volumes are a bit slow this year, however in the lead up to Christmas, the cherries should be looking good to harvest and we forecast the volumes to increase. We will soon be moving into the Lapins variety and our customers are quite keen and the quality will be exceptional."
SSM exports and sources cherries from various growers across Australia, and the varieties for export include Lapins, Van, Regina, Simone, Sweet Georgia and Sweetheart.
"There is an extended ripening season with the Tasmanian region," Devyani said. "We do not export the early varieties and the preference has always been on waiting for good export quality varieties. We source from various regions and start from October and wrap up with the season until mid-February."
SSM Enterprises is a family-owned company and Sonia says they are quite passionate about delivering premium quality, and it thrives on the key relationships built with growers, freight forwarders and customers.
"We are passionate about providing high touch service and excellent quality," she said. "We are quite oriented about providing a great experience overall. Being a mother-daughter team, we complement each other’s strengths which is a key asset for us. We have created a culture of empathy and continuous learning, which is reflected in the way our team operates.
SSM began operations in 2016 and another major exported fruit over winter is citrus, with the main market being India. Sonia noted that this season was initially a slow start however the demand started to pick up from August.
"In terms of logistics it was tricky with lack of containers, port congestion and rates," she said. "Despite this, we were able to meet consumer demands and due to COVID-19, we are seeing more awareness amongst people to build their immunities by intaking vitamin C and citrus is a great source for it! As mentioned earlier, we are quite keen to explore new markets and to increase volumes."
SSM Enterprises are also looking forward to a positive outcome for the free trade agreement (FTA) between Australia and India.
"We have premium Australian produce and quality to offer and the FTA will have a rolling impact on the price point which will be massively beneficial," Sonia said.