Home' Grower : February 2011 Contents The South Australian Grower -- February 2011
China's great haul
By Richard Fox
THE arrival of Australia's first
imported apples in 90 years could
herald a new tidal wave of foreign-
grown produce entering Australia.
Shipments of Chinese-grown Fuji apples
have arrived in Sydney and Melbourne
since late last week, and they could be
followed by New Zealand and US apples
within the next two years.
Growers in the key apple regions of
Batlow, Orange and Bilpin are increasingly
frustrated at the growing list of importers
and a stagnant list of export destinations.
Apple and Pear Australia Limited
chairman, Darral Ashton, said local
growers would have to wait years before
they could export produce to China.
"Tasmania is the only Australian state
which can export to the Chinese mainland,
and that process took 13 years from 1997
to seal," he said.
"In 2004, an application was lodged to
export apples from mainland Australia to
China and we can't see the process
Apple imports were stopped in 1921
when fruit from New Zealand was found
with fire blight, a destructive disease which
can also affect pears.
Last December, the World Trade
Organisation rejected Australia's appeal
against a previous ruling that some
quarantine protocols Australia had imposed
on apple imports from New Zealand did
not conform with international
phytosanitary agreements, and Mr Ashton
said imports from New Zealand could start
within a year.
"This is the tip of the iceberg," he said.
"China is dipping its toe in the water
and testing Australia's position.
"If all goes well for them, Chinese
imports will ramp up at the end of 2011
and with New Zealand apples from 2012
and US apples probably the year after,
there will be a lot of pressure on Australian
growers and the industry as a whole."
China's import application had been the
subject of a lengthy appeal process with
local farmers disputing the move and
calling for due recognition of the pest,
spotted-wing drosophila or suzukii fly,
which is endemic in China and now a
major problem for farmers in the US.
A number of shipments of Fuji apples
have arrived in Sydney in time for the
Chinese New Year, while another container
entered Melbourne port last weekend.
As many as seven more containers are
expected to arrive in Sydney during the
next week, while one shipment is also
scheduled for Fremantle, Western
Australia. APAL will launch a marketing
campaign in March to raise awareness of
locally-grown apples, but Mr Ashton said it
would not spend more than its annual $2
million advertising levy on the strategy.
"We are not quite sure of the impacts of
imports on Australian growers yet, but
now we have Chinese apples for the first
time in 90 years," Mr Ashton said.
Two of the nation's largest retailers,
Coles and Woolworths, have publicly
announced they will not stock imported
apples and NSW Farmers' Association
horticulture chairman, Peter Darley, said all
retailers should ensure imported product
was labelled with its country of origin.
A label stating 'Great Wall' - rather than
China - is set to be used on the Fuji
Mr Darley said the industry had to
address its high labour and production
costs if it was to compete for market space
with imported produce.
"Our biggest problem is that we are a
high cost producer and with the high
Australian dollar, it makes imports
competitive," he said.
"This will test the market but we have
been self sufficient in what we produce and
I would appeal to the consumer to buy an
Australian apple over a Chinese one."
Distribution links for Australian growers
will be diminished if apple imports
increase, Ausbuy chief executive officer,
L ynne Wilkinson, said.
"Our farmers may own the trees and the
land, but they no longer own the method
Chinese apples sail into Sydney.
Alarming increase in imports
BY Ashley Walmsley
AUSVEG has expressed its concern about
the level of vegetable imports from China.
The concern follows reports by the
Agence France-Presse from China of the
discovery of mushrooms with unsafe
whitening agents that can cause health
problems including liver damage and skin
allergies, uncovered by an 11-year-old
schoolboy from Beijing and since verified
by the China Agricultural University.
Ausveg communications and public
affairs manager, Hugh Tobin sees the
reports as another food-safety incident in
China that heightens the organisation's
ongoing concern with the regulation of food
production in that country.
"The reported discovery of these
chemicals on Chinese mushrooms is
particularly concerning, given the
increasing level of imports making their
way from China to Australia," Mr Tobin
"Overall, vegetable imports from China
have risen sharply over the past five years.
"Imports have increased from $54 million
in 2005/06 to $96m in 2009/10.
"The rise in imports from China is an
alarming trend, when you consider that in
that time there have been a number of
serious food safety incidents in that
"Fresh vegetable imports from China
increased from $13m to $18m between July
2008 and June 2010.
"What's even more alarming, however, is
the evidence from our counterparts in New
Zealand that many Chinese products are
being imported into Australia via New
Zealand in order to mask their origin."
He said clearer country of origin labelling
that is enforced by a national authority is
required in order to stop misleading acts
such as this, and ensure Australian
consumers are fully informed when they
buy vegetable products at the supermarket
or the greengrocer.
Currently, the overall trade deficit for
vegetables remains negative at $306m,
meaning that Australia still imports
significantly more than it exports.
Despite vows from Chinese authorities to
fix up the food industry in China and put to
rest safety concerns, Mr Tobin said that
Ausveg remained deeply concerned that the
standards we expect of Australian
producers were not being met by the
"It's important that we have some level of
parity when it comes to quality assurance
and safety concerns, including chemical
residue testing. If we can't ensure that
international growers are meeting those
requirements, then we should be asking
ourselves whether we want to continue to
trade in those products," Mr Tobin said.
In Australia, the Australian Quarantine
Inspection Service tests only five per cent
of shipments coming into Australia for
"Not enough is being done to ensure that
imported products meet the standards to
which Australian primary producers must
adhere," he said.
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