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Australian cherries: Deal allows airfreighting to China

Australian cherries: Deal allows airfreighting to China

CHINA is ripe for the picking for Australian cherry producers.

The Federal Government last week announced it had struck a deal to allow fresh cherries from Australia’s mainland to be airfreighted there.

The move, announced as part of market access reforms that will also see Australian peaches, plums and apricots gain access to the lucrative Chinese market, is considered a major win for the industry.

The changes to fumigation requirements mean cherries from mainland Australia can potentially be on Chinese supermarket shelves within 48 to 72 hours of harvest.

While Australian cherries have had access to China since 2013, only Tasmanian cherries were able to be airfreighted due to fruit-fly concerns. Cherries from other states were required to undergo a fumigation process while being shipped by sea, which took about 21 days.

Stephen Riseborough, of Cherryhill Orchards at Coldstream in the Yarra Valley, said last week’s announcement was well timed with the start of the cherry season.

Cherryhill sells most of its cherries through Coles, Woolworths and Costco, as well as the Melbourne Wholesale Market, but sees massive potential for exports, which currently make up about 15 per cent of business.

“China is a gigantic market,” Mr Riseborough said. “There’s still a lot of logistical factors to get it right. I don’t think exports will go berserk to start with, but it’s a case of taking it slowly and working with our customers to make it work.”

Cherryhill started picking cherries a fortnight ago on its 162ha orchard at Cobram in northern Victoria. It also has orchards in the Yarra Valley, the Strathbogie Ranges, at Tolmie, near Mansfield. and at Orange in NSW.

Mr Riseborough said Cherryhill’s cherry season was expected to run until late February. Victoria expects a medium-volume crop, while Tasmania and South Australia should have good yields.

Traditionally, Victoria is Australia’s biggest cherry producer, followed by NSW and Tasmania.