Home' Grower : February 2013 Contents The South Australian Grower -- February 2013
By ANDREW MARSHALL
THE rich pickings anticipated by
the Federal Government's much-
discussed 'Asian century' food
boom simply are not adding up, say
frustrated fruit and vegetable produc-
ers and exporters.
And they point to Canberra as a big
part of the problem.
While imports of United States,
South American, and European fresh
horticulture products are making big
inroads in Asian markets, Australia's
top-level export protocols and market
access negotiations are being out-
manoeuvred by trade competitors and
overseas import restrictions.
''Australia commenced negotiations
14 years ago to get our mainland
cherries shipped into China and it
seems we're hardly any closer," major
New South Wales-based exporter
Andrew Gartrell said.
He said China was not only sending
increasing volumes of its own fresh
produce into Australia, but Chinese
exporters were blatantly branding
their fruit sold into Asia as 'Australian'
to capture a premium price.
Meanwhile, the very same post-har-
vest treatment standards which
allowed Chinese fresh fruits and veg-
etables to sell here were, strangely,
considered too lenient to meet
China's import protocol for
"The Department of Agriculture
Fisheries and Forestr y and Biosecurity
Australia refuse to use this gross
hypocrisy as any type of leverage in
their negotiations," said Mr Gartrell,
who is managing director of Great
Southern Fresh Produce.
"We seem to lack any sort of
urgency and skills in government-to-
government trade negotiations.''
He said market access to Asia was
not growing for cherry exporters -- it
had actually shrunk in the past 20
His Orange-based company is main-
land Australia's biggest cherr y
exporter, sending product sourced
from across Central West NSW to
Asia and the Middle East.
Mr Gartrell said if Australia's horti-
culture export volumes were to grow
in Asia, big improvements were need-
ed to make poorly constructed proto-
cols less bureaucratic and more
responsive to local producer needs
and the aggressive trade strategies of
His obser vations are shared by
Summerfruit Australia chief exec-
utive officer John Moore who
said arrangements struck by gov-
ernment negotiators to advance
Australian exports were invari-
ably "not very commercial".
"In the current environment I
think we're likely to see exports
of fruit and vegetables declining,
not rising," Mr Moore said
Growers were astounded that
some export nations could slip
into Asian markets, or even
Australia, far more easily than
Australian fruit exports could
find markets in the region.
"Other countries seem to be
able to negotiate easier protocols
than we can get -- their support-
ing science seems to be accepted,
but not ours," Mr Moore said.
"Maybe there are other govern-
He said not only was Australia
closer to Asian markets -- typical-
ly 14 days by sea compared to 20
days from the US or 30 from
South America -- its product
quality was often much better.
"People in Asia often say they
much prefer Australian fruit to
something they buy from Chile,
but our high dollar and the
whole export system means our
cost of getting it into that market
might be quite considerable," Mr
Mr Moore's grower-funded
peak industry body represents
the peach, apricot, nectarine and
"Cherry growers are in an awful
position, but other fruit exports
have similar protocol challenges
and costs -- and there's precious
little margin at the farmgate in
exporting in the first place," he
He said it was absurd that
export protocols agreed to in
some markets included having
farmers pay for overseas inspec-
tors to be here duplicating local
inspection ser vices before ship-
ments left the country.
NSW cherry grower Andrew Gartrell says Australia needs to get less bureaucratic and more aggressive if its
horticulture export volumes were to grow in Asia.
Trade competitors take edge
Govt "lacks urgency and skills"
Fruit, veg exports may decline
Other countries seem to be able to negotiate
easier protocols than we can get -- their
supporting science seems to be accepted, but
-- JOHN MOORE
Negotiations 'need sense of urgency'
WHILE the federal government's
white paper plan for agriculture
has proclaimed there are
opportunities aplenty to cash in
on burgeoning Asia's food needs,
New South Wales exporter
Andrew Gartrell says government
structures seemed "hopelessly
out of touch with market
"In light of the Prime Minister's
discussion paper as to the
opportunities in Asia I think
Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig
should be bringing a lot more
pressure on the agriculture and
trade departments to engage
more closely with industry," he
"They need to approach these
trade negotiations with a greater
sense of urgency and
He said more investment in
research and a centralised focus
on fruit fly control strategies
would ensure Australia's envied
quarantine credentials were not
eroded further and taken
advantage of by competitors.
"The Department of Agriculture
Fisheries and Forestry and
Biosecurity Australia spent
almost 10 years negotiating what
has turned out to be a worthless
market access protocol for
Australian cherries into the USA,"
Mr Gartrell said.
"The lack of industry input into
the protocol means it is
completely unworkable -- not a
single box of cherries has ever
"But US cherry growers, despite
having perhaps a wider range of
troubling insect pests, were able
to constantly renegotiate and
improve their market access
protocol for their cherries into
Australia in a matter of weeks."
He said that without a workable
airfreight protocol, Australian
mainland cherry growers would
never access the huge Chinese
market for counter-seasonal
put markets at risk
February 22, 2013
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