Wishing you a Cherry Christmas: Spotlight on Cherry Farming in Australia
Thursday, 20th December 2018
It wouldn’t be summer in Australia without cherries being the centrepiece of many Christmas celebrations.
Australia has one of the longest cherry seasons in the world thanks to the different climate zones across the country. Cherry season starts in Australia in the hottest spots and move slowly to cooler areas. Every state in Australia grows cherries (apart from the Northern Territory), and our country boasts over 700 cherry farms.
Chinese market ripe for Australian Cherries
While the Australian thirst for cherries certainly ramps up as Christmas approaches, the Chinese market is one of the biggest opportunities for Australian growers who are expanding their orchards and operations to export to the largest market in the world.
Earlier this month, the Australian Government announced that it had struck a deal to allow fresh cherries from Australia’s mainland to be air freighted to China. While Australian cherries have had access to China since 2013, only Tasmanian cherries were able to be air freighted due to fruit-fly concerns. Cherries from other states were required to undergo a fumigation process while being shipped by sea, which took about 21 days.
The move, announced as part of market access reforms that will also see Australian peaches, plums and apricots gain access to the lucrative Chinese market, is considered a major win for the industry and will see growth in stone fruit farming, who can begin the process of setting up export channels.
Australia is a relatively small player in the world of cherry production, with the southern hemisphere only representing 7% of the world’s production. However, as with much Australian produce, they have gained a good reputation regarding their quality, and are perceived as much safer than some grown locally in Asian markets.
Australia’s largest competition for exporting cherries into China is Chile, the other main producer of cherries in the Southern Hemisphere. China is Chile's biggest cherry consumer market. In 2015, almost 80% of Chile's cherry exports moved to China.
While Chile currently produces a greater quantity of cherries for the export market, Australia has one very clear and unchangeable advantage – location. Australian cherry farmers can get their fruit into China before producers from Chile can, offering fresher product and quicker supply. Cherries from mainland Australia can potentially be on Chinese supermarket shelves within 48 to 72 hours of harvest.
The Chinese New Year, or Spring Festival, is one of the most anticipated dates for exporters of cherries. The Chinese greatly value cherries. According to their culture, it is a lucky gift: its red colour symbolises prosperity and fortune; and its roundness symbolises perfection and eternity. Demand for this fruit skyrockets in the Chinese New Year, which in 2018 will be held on Friday 16 Feburary, although the celebration lasts 15 days.
Support for Australian horticulture
Horticulture Innovation Australia Limited (Hort Innovation), a not-for-profit, grower-owned Research and Development company, recently announced bold new export targets that would lift export earnings by hundreds of millions of dollars per year if they are reached. These targets include the export of 12,000 tonnes of cherries by 2020 – 21, a jump of 340 per cent over 2015 levels.
The ambitious targets will be supported by a new overseas marketing campaign to help promote Australia’s sought-after fresh produce overseas. Taste Australia will feature in trade shows, export campaigns and in overseas retail outlets stocking Australian produce.
Hort Innovation chairman Selwyn Snell said there was significant potential to increase Australian horticulture exports, pointing to "untapped opportunities" and Australia's reputation for growing high-quality food.
"Australia is known for delivering high-end produce that has undergone the most rigorous food safety inspections along all stages of the supply chain," he said.
"We want to build upon that. The first way we are doing this is through Taste Australia, which tells the unique story of Australian horticulture products."