Cherry export breakthrough for Tasmanian grower

Posted by Editorial on 27th January 2009

Tasmanian cherry grower Reid Fruits has overcome market access challenges to ship 17.5 tonnes of premium Japanese-variety (Satonishiki) cherries which retail at A$50 per kilo in Japan – the homeland of the unique cherry.The non-fumigated white-flesh cherries, initially developed by Japanese growers in the 1930s, have been an instant success with Japanese consumers, renowned for being some of the most discerning in the world.

This is the first time Reid Fruits – the only large-scale southern hemisphere commercial grower of the Satonishiki cherry – has exported non-fumigated cherries to Japan.

Until recently, the company could only access Japan if their produce was fumigated, a process reducing end-product quality in a market that demands the highest standards.

Due to consumer demand and off-season southern hemisphere production advantages, the company aims to increase exports to over 200 tonnes in the next 2-3 years, planting 30,000 cherry trees in a new orchard in the Derwent Valley northwest of Hobart.

Australia’s Minister for Trade Simon Crean said the win demonstrated how Australia’s sophisticated agricultural producers, aided by improved market access, could deliver regional jobs to Australians. “Cherries are an established and sacred part of Japanese culture. Winning improved market access for cherries is an important and symbolic breakthrough in Australia’s agricultural trade with Japan,” he commented. “Reid Fruits employ 12 permanent and 300 seasonal workers during production, and now expect to increase total employment to 500 seasonal and permanent staff, demonstrating how trade can help build employment and prosperity in difficult times.”

“With the market for Japanese-produced cherries worth around A$255 million during the summer months, the company estimates the opportunity exists to supply the winter market at 10% of that amount,” Mr Crean added. “With only 40% food self-sufficiency in Japan, the need to import to a 130 million-strong consumer market will remain, despite uncertainties in the global trading environment.

“Japan remains Australia’s top export destination, purchasing over $34 billion of Australian commodities, products and services annually. Current negotiations for a bilateral free trade agreement stand to deliver significant future benefits from an already strong platform of engagement,” Mr Crean concluded.