Table grapes leading hort export charge

ABARES’ agricultural commodities Outlook 17 report says Australian table grapes were the highest value fruit export in 2015-16.

Ashley Walmsley
Ashley Walmsley@AshWalmsley

www.goodfruitandvegetables.com.au

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When it comes to fruit exports, table grapes are showing how it’s done.

TABLE grapes have been the star performer on the export stage taking the title for highest value fruit export in 2015-16.

The figure comes out of the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES)’ agricultural commodities Outlook 2017 report, released this week. According to the report, table grape exports grew steadily in the five years to 2015–16.

Table grape exports to Japan and China have increased substantially since trade agreements came into effect and technical market access was agreed in 2014 for both markets. ABARES put the gross value of table and dried grapes at $364 million, however the Australian Table Grape Association (ATGA) said it’s closer to $377 million, not including dried grapes.

The market even recovered from a bump in the road when biosecurity restrictions imposed by Vietnam prevented the export of fresh grapes to Vietnam during the 2015 season. However, in July 2015 the temporary suspension was lifted and table grape exports to Vietnam resumed. Vietnam was Australia’s second-largest market in 2013–14, the year before the suspension.

GRAPE BEYOND: Australian table grape exports by destination, 2010-11 to 2015-16. Source: ABARES.

GRAPE BEYOND: Australian table grape exports by destination, 2010-11 to 2015-16. Source: ABARES.

Speaking from Tokyo, ATGA chief executive officer, Jeff Scott, gave full credit to the growers who he said have shifted their thinking to be “export ready”.

“They realise they need to produce a high quality product and they are doing that,” he said. “We produce a high quality grape which demands a premium and we also produce a sweeter, mature grape.” Mr Scott said a lot of hard work had gone into educating and training growers on not only improved growing practices but also export protocols. He said cracking access to China five years ago, followed by Japan and then South Korea had been instrumental to the sector’s growth. “Eleven years ago there were hardly any protocols in place. We realised if we want to export, you can’t do that sitting in a boardroom,” Mr Scott said. Fostering those relationships with Asian nations meant two or three trips per year to those countries. “That meant that when we got access, we were ready to go,” Mr Scott said.

What makes the success of table grapes even more remarkable is the fact most come from family-owned farms, including some second and third generation growers. “It’s a win-win; the farmers are getting good returns and the customer is getting a good quality product,” Mr Scott said.