New protocols, and an improved growing season has helped the imports of Australian stone fruit into the Chinese supply chain increase 167 per cent in volume, compared to last year.
Summerfruit Australia says the figures, as of March 2018, recognise the addition of peaches and plums for the first time, after the industry gained access for all categories of stone fruit from November 2017, adding to nectarines, which started supply the year prior.
"Due to our protocol conditions and current limitations, our industry quickly seized on the new access for peaches and plums," CEO of Summerfruit Australia John Moore said. "Apricots are a very delicate fruit and will need more protocol improvements to successfully deliver first class quality to Chinese consumers. With nectarines in the second year of access, there was a significant increase in exports due to a much improved growing season over 2016/17."
He adds that the late announcement in 2017 for access of peaches, plums and apricots was very much welcomed, by both Australian producers and Chinese customers.
"Detailed surveillance of the key Chinese markets - Guangzhou, Shanghai and Beijing - heard positive feedback of quality, price points and consumer satisfaction for eating quality across the spectrum of nectarines, both yellow and white flesh; peaches both yellow and white flesh; and the spectrum of plums, inclusive of sugar plums," Mr Moore said. "The Australian Summerfruit sent to China this season re-established our distinguishing quality factor, eating characteristics and freshness over southern competitors.”
Summerfruit Australia's General Manager for Intellectual Property and Business Development Rowan Little says overall the season was an improvement in terms of timing and fruit quality on the year prior. Early fruit was almost two weeks earlier than the year prior which proved a good introduction into the season.
"I think the general consensus was that peaches were in heavy supply which resulted in some low grower returns," Mr Little said. "Nectarines were in good supply but not in over production. Plums were a little lighter than the previous season while Apricots returns were overall slightly lower."
The main challenge from a quality perspective was early season frosts in most districts and a few hail events which primarily affected the Cobram district. Other than that a few rain events had impacts at various times but overall the summer growing season was good.
However, Mr Little says domestic demand was relatively flat, but flavour and fruit size remain the primary drivers of domestic consumer demand.
"Nectarines continue to dominate the Australian domestic market in terms of volume of sales," he said. "In this space, yellow nectarines are also preferred over white. Sales were strongest for nectarines through January. During this period demand off shore for large white nectarines was also strong though grower returns were only average. Nectarines performed much better in China than the year prior with better fruit flavour driving demand and increased volume. Formal access for Plums and Peaches was not granted until mid-season, but with the benefit of a full season of access in 2018/19 this situation is expected to improve."
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Publication date: 5/28/2018
Author: Matthew Russell