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Pain before gain pear growers told

Opportunities abound for high-end fresh pears on the Asian market, but it could involve short-term pain for long-term gain, a conference in Tatura heard last Thursday.

CATHY WALKER December 17, 2013 4:00am

Aimee McCutcheon, team leader hort services DEPIV


Opportunities abound for high-end fresh pears on the Asian market, but it could involve short-term pain for long-term gain, a conference in Tatura heard last Thursday.

Hosted by DEPI and Apple and Pear Australia Limited, the fresh pear day was designed to prepare growers for 2014 and update them on marketing efforts.

Among the immediate outcomes of the day was the formation of a Goulburn Valley Exporters Association to work on getting pears and apples to overseas markets.

Horticulture Australia Limited apple and pear marketing manager Luke Westley said locally, $675000 would be spent on building on the success of Australian Pear Month 2013 in next year’s incarnation in March.

It includes the release of a recipe book by celebrity chefs such as Maggie Beer, Guy Grossi and Karen Martini, plus in-store promotions at Coles where shoppers buy 2kg of pears for a recipe and receive a discount.

Mr Westley also asked for input from the meeting.

‘‘I want your families’ recipes for pears too. We want to celebrate you as farmers.’’

Export

Next the meeting turned to Asian export opportunities. It was agreed there had been no consistency on that front, rather flirting with it then dropping out.

Jakarta-based David Morey of Morefresh Asia Pacific and his business partner and brother Phillip, based in Singapore, described the opportunities for pears and fresh fruit in their new home countries.

The brothers are third-generation pomme fruit growers from Ardmona and know the industry from the orchard to the international markets.

Phillip Morey, who has been in Singapore for six months, said consumers were prepared to pay top dollar for top produce and noted Singaporeans had a sweet palate.

David Morey said Indonesia was the 16th largest economy in the world but by 2013 would jump to seventh. Last year’s Australian exports of pears to Indonesia dropped in volume by 44 per cent to 1300tonnes.

He said there were more billionaires in Indonesia than in Japan. Recently he asked one what his recipe for success was and the answer was simple, but important.

‘‘Trust, that’s what it’s all about — deliver what you promise,’’ David Morey said.

Growers agreed that in the past there had been many flirtations with exporting to Asia that hadn’t resulted in long-term unions. Supplying the top end of the market would require a paradigm shift in discipline to meet the quality demanded.

Australia’s clean, green reputation was its point of difference when taking on China, which supplies the vast majority of pears to some Asian markets.

‘‘Sixty per cent of water in China is undrinkable — and it’s fertilising crops,’’ APAL chief executive John Dollison said.

But grower Peter Hall summed up the thoughts of several of his peers when he agreed while the Asian market demanded consistency (of availability), growers can’t be ‘‘jumping in and out whether it’s profitable or not’’.

‘‘There must be a base level of confidence,’’ Mr Hall said. ‘‘You must find a market that satisfies our cost of production.’’

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