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Australian stone fruit exporters looking forward to capitalising on opportunities in Vietnam

A leading Australian stone fruit grower is hopeful the Vietnamese market could go a long way to replacing reliance on China, at least in the short to medium term for a lot of exporters across the industry.

Last month, Australian peach and nectarine exporters re-gained access into Vietnam following the successful completion of technical negotiations between the two countries. Mattina Fresh National Sales Director, Tom Panna is also a member of the Summerfruit Export Development Alliance (SEDA) and says with a population of 96 million, it will be a major market to break into.

"We will start that as a focus to next season, along with some unified marketing campaigns and promotion options," Mr Panna said. "We are also having discussions as an industry about selecting the right varieties, and in a price-driven orientated market that we continue to have integrity with our product and make sure that market gets the best products available. There will be a lot of work being done over the winter. I think that given that it is new market access for us all, and there is the potential to replace China with Vietnam, while the China situation continues - we need to stand by our product and make sure the integrity remains. That means a premium product with high sugars, good size, beautiful flavour and a great eating experience."

From a Mattina Fresh business perspective, Mr Panna explains that this year's export sales have been better than anticipated, even though it made the strategic decision not to send fruit to China.

"There's obviously a lot of factors in there, with the relationship between Australia and China, but also there are heavy implementations of COVID-19 restrictions in China," he said. "They continue to lockdown, and last week there were 9 million people in northern China locked down again. So, the goalposts are moving all the time, and a lot of elements are out of our control, so we stayed out of that market and focussed on Singapore and Malaysia. We supplied an amazing white peach, and this year it was the most white peach that we have ever exported."

It is coming into the final weeks of stone fruit season for Mattina Fresh, with the yellow nectarines finished for the year, and halfway through the final variety of yellow peach. White peaches finished this week, and late next week, white nectarines will also be finished. Red and black plums are expected to continue until the first week of May.

Domestically, Mattina Fresh says that there was a lot more demand over summer, after initially forecasting plenty of challenges created by the potential extra fruit on the market, due to difficulties with export shipping - but Mr Panna says that didn't eventuate.

"I think that several things played on consumers' minds; from it being summer and the fruit and stone fruit itself after all the lockdowns, people just wanted to enjoy some good quality fruit in the sun this year," he said.

"Obviously, restaurants and foodservice businesses going in and out of lockdown created more demand at home. It has been a far more positive season than was initially anticipated. We thought all the shipping issues may have an impact on returns but the category has shown some growth on net kilo returns this year, and probably four per cent up. However, the challenge is that cost of production is also up 15-20 per cent. But looking at year on year, we have seen more fruit consumed in Australia, and amazing promo activity driving peach and nectarine sales at the right time. The major chain stores got forecasting and strategies right, with promoting fruit when there are good strong volumes available. That meant we didn't get any major backlog and kept turning the produce over, so it remains fresh."

For more information
Thomas Panna
Mattina Fresh
Phone: +61 419 315 030
[email protected]