Credit: Alexandra Sautois
Australia recorded a 6.6% increase in fresh vegetable exports in 2019 to €185 million, according to Global Trade Atlas data. In volume terms, the country’s vegetable exports were up 5.4% to 230,000 tons. The main source of this growth was onions, which surged 67% to €25 million in 2019, thanks to strong demand from Europe, where there was a lack of supply. Australia’s largest fresh vegetable export in volume terms is carrots, accounting for 34% of all shipments. Australia also exports large volumes of potatoes, celery, broccoli and cauliflower.
The largest market for Australian fresh vegetables is Singapore, followed by the UAE, Japan, Malaysia and Saudi Arabia, which together received about 53% of total vegetable exports. The Ausveg body is working to help the country’s growers develop the skills and capacity to enter export markets for vegetables through the Vegetable Industry Export Programme, in partnership with Hort Innovation. In a move which should further boost exports, Australia has recently signed a free trade agreement with Indonesia.
Woolworths Australia has opened a supermarket store that is 100% run on renewable energy. The initiative is part of the Living Building Challenge (LBC), the world’s most rigorous performance standard for buildings. The store will feature a number of sustainability initiatives, such as an increased display space for the retailer’s “odd bunch” range, which promotes fruit and vegetables usually destined for food waste, loose format produce, such as berries and cherry tomatoes, that would usually come in plastic packaging, and a partnership with OzHarvest to cut food waste and deliver leftover food to local hunger relief charities. Managing director, Claire Peters, said, “As Australia’s largest retailer, we recognise our responsibility to minimise our environmental footprint and are committed to playing our part in creating a greener, more sustainable future.”
Chilean avocado producers are a step closer to gaining access to the Australian market. The final report published by the Australian government on pest control recommends allowing imports of fresh avocado to Australia from all commercial production areas of Chile, subject to a range of biosecurity requirements. Those requirements include a range of risk management measures combined with an operational system. This includes the proviso that all fruit be free of Mediterranean fruit fly and the hard condition of fruit for the Hass cultivar only. This means the fruit is deliberately detached from healthy branches of living trees and shows no signs of softening or spotted area, or of having any areas of breakdown or broken skin.
Chile might gain access as early as 2021. However, Australia continues to expand its own production of the fruit, meaning it is unlikely that this market will be as important as the European, US and Chinese ones for Chilean producers.
Credit: Valcenteu, Wikipedia
Fresh produce grower Freshero and agtech company RotoGro have teamed up to construct a fully automated urban vertical farming facility in Australia, according to a press release by RotoGro. Construction of the flagship facility should be complete by the second quarter of 2020. Freshero will contribute its experience as a grower of fresh organic produce and distributor to Australia, South-East Asia and the Middle East, while RotoGro specialises in rotational hydroponic garden systems and crop management and fertigation technology.
The fully automated urban vertical farming facility will produce fresh organic fruits and vegetables on a commercial scale. Once complete, the partners plan to expand the project across Australia, South-East Asia, the Middle East and the rest of the world.
Australia expects a record table grape crop in 2019/20, with output up 14% to 240,000 tons, according to FAS data. The main factor is the growth in production area due to the profitability of the fruit and strong demand in recent years. Vine plantings are increasing by about 20% each year, which will lead to further growth as young plants reach maturity. Growing conditions were not ideal, with droughts across many production areas. Nevertheless, high returns offset the water costs.
Many of the new plantings are for export to Asian markets like China, where consumers are shifting preferences to seedless varieties, as well as new varieties and flavours. The main grape production state is Victoria (71%), which accounts for most exports. Table grape production starts in November and reaches its peak in February and March, before concluding in May.
TAGS: Australia, grape, 2019/20
New Australian project for protected cropping
The Australian government has launched a new project to support the country’s growers wishing to employ protected cropping systems to better cope with the extreme heat and insects. The Minister for Industry, Science and Technology, Karen Andrews, and Queensland senator, Susan McDonald announced the initiative which is supported by the Cooperative Research Centre for Northern Australia (CRCNA). The project is estimated to cost around US$300,000 over two years.
Andrews said, “With protected cropping being the fastest growing food producing sector in Australia, with a farm-gate value of around AU$1.8bn each year, it makes good sense to look at how we expand use in northern Australia.”
Australia’s horticulture exports rose 3% in 2019 and are worth US$7.9bn.
TAGS: Australia, crop protection
Australia’s 2019/20 peach and nectarine crop is set to climb 2% to 96,000 tons from the previous year, according to FAS Canberra data. The growth is due to old varieties being replaced with newer more productive ones. The crop has benefited from large parts of the main production area, Victoria, receiving plenty of rainfall in recent months. Nectarines account for 53% of the crop and peaches for 47%. The Australian harvest runs from November to January for peaches and from January to February for nectarines.
Australia’s fresh peach and nectarine exports volumes have doubled in volume over the past five years. They are expected to reach 17,000 tons in 2019/20 (up 9%) on the back of the good crop and the increasing demand from China, which accounts for about 44% of the total. In 2018/19 alone, China’s imports were up 68% in volume. Protocols were signed in 2017 to allow Australia to export nectarines to China, while in 2018, protocols were signed for peach, apricot and plum imports from Australia for the first time.
Domestic consumption is set to remain stable, with the increase in volumes heading to overseas markets. Around 71% of the peaches and nectarines produced in Australia went to fresh domestic consumption.
Australia’s cherry crop is expected to expand in 2019/20, with all exports expanding proportionately. The rise in production is due to the continued expansion of production area. The total crop is expected to reach 18,000 tons in 2019/20, up 7% from 2018/19. The significant expansion over the past three years is largely due to the opening of several key Asian markets. Cherry exports are set to reach a record 6,000 tons in MY 2019/20, up 20% from 2018/19. Half of all exports go to Hong Kong and China.
Tasmania is the largest cherry production area (25%). The season starts in October and ends in January. The drought in parts of Australia affected some growing areas, but Tasmania escaped unscathed.
An investigation has been launched into the causes of a mass resignation of directors at two Australia-listed Chinese agricultural companies, according to Reuters. One of the firms is citrus grower Dongfang Modern Agriculture Holding Group Ltd (DFM.AX), whose entire board unexpectedly resigned in June, without any explanation. Something similar happened at a second company, Bojun Agriculture Holdings (BAH.AX), a processed fruit manufacturer, which is also under investigation. The company claims that the resignations of its two Australian directors and company secretary in June were due to a “miscommunication” between directors.
The two similar cases raise serious questions regarding the large number of Chinese companies seeking listings in Australia to avoid regulatory hurdles at home.
As the 2019 Australian grape season draws to a close, exporters are looking back on a highly successful campaign, with record volumes exported to China and good quality thanks to favourable growing conditions. Australian table grapes entered China ten years ago. Today, the giant Asian market accounts for about 37% of Australia’s total export volume of 110,000 tons.
Australian exporters have worked on improving the packaging of their Crimson grapes in line with Chinese consumers’ preference for gifting fruit. In addition to the traditional 9kg coffin pack, 4.5kg gift boxes are now being offered. Australian grapes has always had a reputation for being luxury items in China, and this reputation has been reinforced with the addition of new varieties, which have enjoyed great success and commanded high prices.
Australian grape imports have not always been so successful in China, however. As recently as 2016 and 2017, importers were overpricing the fruit and disregarding its quality, which led to a market crash and heavy losses. Australian grapes appear to have now regained their prestige and should go from strength to strength. As of this year, they will be subject to zero tariffs, which is leading to greater investment in Australia.