Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Doors locked as opportunity knocks

The fruit industry is becoming weary of being told of huge opportunities in markets in Asia by Australian governments which cannot negotiate free trade agreements to get access.

GEOFF ADAMS March 12, 2014 9:00am

Trade barriers stand in the way of Australian exports.

The fruit industry is becoming weary of being told of huge opportunities in markets in Asia by Australian governments which cannot negotiate free trade agreements to get access.

Australian governments need to do a lot more to open up markets for Australian fruit exports, a cherry exporter and international fruit trader has told Country News.

NSW Cherry Growers Association president Andrew Gartrell said it took too long for Australian authorities to produce quarantine protocols to ship fruit to many Asian countries, and when they did, the outcomes were unworkable.

‘‘A lot of Australians are going to be very disappointed in ‘the new Asian century’,’’ Mr Gartrell said when asked about the latest Victorian Government plan to improve export opportunities in its ‘food to Asia action plan’.

‘‘We could end up with nothing.

‘‘Quarantine protocols are being developed which are never viable.’’

He quoted the case of the restrictions on Australian exports of cherries into the United States, which included a five-week chilling period which spoils the fruit.

He said the Federal Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry had been given good guidance by the cherry industry.

‘‘But they need to take notice of advice given by the growers.’’

He said cherry growers could not get access into South Korea, Taiwan, Japan, the Philippines, China and Thailand.

He said the department needed to work faster and more aggressively.

‘‘They’ve been working on China access for eight years,’’ Mr Gartrell said.

‘‘There needs to be more commerciality and urgency in taking the industry position forward.’’

Mr Gartrell said indications were that the new Federal Government was more aware of the issues.

New Zealand secured a free trade agreement with China in 2008.

The Victorian Government’s Food to Asia plan includes stronger action to break down trade barriers.

‘‘The Victorian Government will support actions at both state and national levels that will reduce the tariff and technical barriers currently hindering Victorian food exports to key Asian markets,’’ the plan says.

Fruit Growers Victoria general manager John Wilson said there was a lot of work to be done in securing overseas markets.

‘‘Chile and New Zealand are a hell of lot better off than we are,’’ Mr Wilson said.

‘‘They are far better negotiators than we are.’’

One barrier to faster trade deals was the reluctance of some foreign governments to move any faster, he said.

Warrnambool Cheese and Butter’s sales and and marketing manager John Williams told the ABARES conference last week: ‘‘The majority of Asia cannot afford our products and we cannot afford to feed them.’’

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