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Chinese Investors Back NSW Cherry Growers' Export Hopes

Date 01-Nov-2016
Subject Chinese Investors Back NSW Cherry Growers' Export Hopes

Cherries from mainland Australian growers are only allowed into China by a slow sea journey with the fruit subjected to cold treatment of one degree, to wipe out pests.

The industry is aiming to show NSW is free of the pest Queensland fruit fly during the cherry growing season.

But in the short term growers and investors hope an export trial with NSW irradiated cherries to Indonesia will convince China.

Co-founder Wise Cap Funds Management, Kobe He, believes there is a bright future for the NSW and Victorian cherry industry.

Cherry season fruit fly free

In the long run NSW growers hope a fruit fly trapping program will show the region is free of the endemic pest during the cherry season.

Department of Primary Industries plant bio-security officer Lloyd Kingham said there was already a large body of evidence to show Queensland fruit flies did not breed or lay until the end of the southern NSW cherry harvest.

"What we've done is put out a whole heap of Queensland fruit fly traps on 17 different cherry businesses across southern NSW to prove the theory," Mr Kingham said.

Growers hope the data will convince quarantine officials to lift trade domestic restrictions that would pave the way for international negotiations.

At least three years of data would be needed from the traps on orchards in Orange, Young and Batlow, Mr Kingham said.

"If we can gather the evidence and convince domestic markets it clears the way for the Australian government to develop up a compelling protocol that they can negotiate with those international markets."

In the meantime cherry growers are pinning their hopes on establishing an irradiation export protocol with China.

Irradiation export pilot

According to Food Standards Australia and New Zealand 50 countries allow the technology which uses ionising radiation to kill insects, moulds and bacteria.

Australia currently exports irradiation treated grapes, mangoes and tomatoes.

As part of the federally-funded export program the DPI is running a pilot export program sending irradiated cherries to Indonesia.

But China still has to be convinced.

Fay Haynes from the DPI's international engagement unit said the name the process was given around 1903 led consumers to misunderstand the technology.

"Unfortunately when they chose that word they didn't really think of the implication that word would have over time," Ms Haynes said.

"It is just like using a microwave."

Ms Haynes said current research showed irradiation had no detrimental affect on nutritional quality.

Chinese investor confidence

In what could be seen as a vote of confidence, current restrictions have not dampened Chinese investor enthusiasm for the NSW cherry industry.

Since the signing of the Free Trade Agreement with China in June last year, at least three suppliers from the NSW central west have sold to Chinese families.

At a recent cherry growers conference a group of Chinese investors said the market for NSW and Victorian cherries was huge, if they could be freighted within 72 hours of picking.

Mr He said would like to expand the Australian cherry industry to match the output of global competitor Chile.

"If our major competitor can produce 20 to 30 times the quantity, why can't we do the same thing, that is our first question," he said.

His company is setting up a committee to work with the cherry industry on a path forward.

"Because there are certain challenges and risks that's why there are opportunities," he said.

"We need to set up the conversation so the right people can be on the table and start talking to each other."


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