Local blueberry growers ‘missing out’ in export market
THE President of Australia's leading berry industry body has said the recent announcement of a trade agreement between China and the US highlights how Australia's blueberry growers are continuing to 'miss out on export opportunities.'
It was announced overnight that China has agreed to finalise phytosanitary protocols for US blueberries.
Australian growers, except for Tasmania, currently cannot export blueberries to China because there is not an agreed export protocol in place for the treatment of fruit fly.
"Blueberries have been second on the Australian Government's China horticultural export market access priority list after apples since October 2017, with an initial application lodged as far back as 2010," Berries Australia President, Peter McPherson said.
"However, progress toward negotiating the export protocol has been slow, despite the efforts of the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources."
Detailed research commissioned by the Australian Blueberry Growers Association (ABGA) in 2017 into the demand for Australian grown blueberries in China revealed that there is a strong and growing market.
The research conducted by Knudsen & Co and presented in a report titled 'China's Market for Australian Blueberries - A Once in a Lifetime Opportunity' confirmed that there is an existing and growing Chinese demand for Australian blueberries that recognises the superior taste, size, food safety and nutritional value of Australian grown blueberries.
"It is very frustrating for the industry knowing that we have a superior product to have to sit by and watch on as a number of other countries have negotiated access for their blueberries into China.
"Countries including Peru, Chile, Argentina, Mexico and now the U.S. have all obtained access.
"It is time for the Australian Government to take a whole of government approach in their trade negotiations with China, including the negotiating of access for blueberries at the highest political levels between the two the countries," said Mr McPherson.
According to Berries Australia, the industry in NSW generates more than $250 million of revenue annually, and the majority of blueberry production occurs in northern NSW, between Coffs Harbour and Tweed Heads.
There are more than 160 blueberry growers in this region alone, ranging in size from small family allotment growers (1 to 20 hectares), to those of a medium scale (20 to 100 hectares) through to large scale growers (100 plus hectares).
According to Berries Australia the industry provides employment for 6,500 workers, 2,000 of these jobs are permanent year-round positions.