California grapes clinch WA access
More than a year after the possibility of extending their market access was first raised, California grapes have begun shipping to West Australian consumers.
California (CA) table grapes have been given the green light to enter the West Australian market, over one year after an import risk analysis and the possibility of extending market access for CA grapes into Western Australia (WA) was first formally announced by Biosecurity Australia in March 2012.
The Department of Agriculture and Food for Western Australia (DAFWA) announced its decision to amend import conditions for CA grapes after a change to Commonwealth import conditions in July this year.
This development comes after the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) issued a final report supporting CA grapes’ entry to WA, subject to biosecurity measures.
Despite industry representatives’ surprise at access being granted sooner than expected, importers have moved quickly to start bringing produce in.
“Our grapes will be arriving in WA next week (beginning 29 July),” says Bruce Bergmans, director of WA- based importer Fresh Express Produce. “Some company’s grapes are already en route and might even arrive today (25 July).”
Despite a protocol demanding CO2/SO2 fumigation and land-based cold sterilisation treatment for six days, which has been known to discolour berries and affect shelf-life, Bergmans is confident Californian exporters’ experience of sending grapes to Australia’s East Coast will ensure they arrive in optimum condition.
“These handlers have the knowledge and skill after having shipped to the East Coast for years,” he says. “They know about the sugar levels the product needs and which varieties can handle the longer transport by sea.”
Seafreight can take as long as 35 days for fruit to reach WA from CA, with the associated risks of adverse weather and port strikes potentially slowing transport down further. However, while airfreight is much quicker and less risky, it is also considerably more expensive.
“The higher cost of transport by air has to be absorbed by the consumer, as we have to increase the price of the grapes to cover it,” he explains. “The dollar is also down a bit now, which is driving costs up more.”
Despite the increased costs, Bergmans is upbeat about the prospects for Californian grapes on the state’s diversifying market.
“These are exciting times,” he says. “Importers and retailers are embracing it as they both want to offer a wider choice to the public, which with grapes and stonefruit both getting access they’ll be more able to do. I think grapes will be the biggest seller, but stonefruit is set to perform well too.”
Article kindly supplied by Fruitnet, Produce Plus Magazine, Spring 2013 issue.