Big improvements for stonefruit on the way

EXCITING TIMES: An access deal with China for stonefruit has been 14 years in the making.
EXCITING TIMES: An access deal with China for stonefruit has been 14 years in the making. Liana Turner

DESPITE a season of fairly hefty ups and downs, Stanthorpe stonefruit farmer Andrew Finlay is still wearing a pretty big smile.

Mr Finlay is chair of Summerfruit Australia and said new market access protocols between China and Australia for peaches, plums and apricots was a huge win some 14 years in the making.

And while there were few stonefruit exporters operating out of Queensland, the benefits of the new deal would be so far-reaching they would make it up here as well.

Mr Finlay stressed there was a lot more to the deal than ensuring access to stonefruit throughout most of the year.

He said the deal would also enable frank and open discussions between the two countries on best practice growing and technical exchanges.

That meant a concerted effort to produce better fruit more consistently, one sure-fire way to arrest a decline in sales over recent years.

He said improving quality standards would be part of the process, to ensure what we put into the Chinese market was what the customers there wanted.

That would in turn have flow-on effects for Australian stonefruit lovers keen for that sweet flavour burst with less hit-and-miss at the checkout.

He said there were some amazing varieties in the pipeline and getting them into green grocers and supermarkets was vital.

He said a similar deal for nectarines had been in place for one season already with remarkable results for the industry.

He said a lot of ground was covered in the first year of trade and said he would expect a lot of positive stories this time.

"This is on the back of fruit quality looking really good for those that missed out on frost and hail and that should translate to some really good fruit heading to China,” Mr Finlay said.

"It has taken a long time though.

"When that market access application went in was 14 years ago, so it has been a long time coming and a lot of work has gone into it.

"As an industry we've spent a lot of time working with the Federal Department of Agriculture and Water ensuring when we did have a protocol it would be practical.”

He said it was welcome news after a strange season marked by a warm and dry winter, followed by some big storms as the weather warmed up.

That meant plenty of fruit lost to damage and thinner crops of plums, but the warmer weather had ensured some very sweet and tasty fruit made it through to harvest.

He said peach and nectarine harvest was done and dusted on his property, leaving just plums to go.

Topics:  china export

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