Cherry industry optimistic about Lunar New Year exports to Asia

news, local-news, Peter Cornish

Tasmania’s weather-sensitive $70 million cherry harvest is underway, and growers are optimistic about an abundant crop. Fruit Growers Tasmania chief executive Peter Cornish said it looks like a good cherry season with plenty of fruit. “Early cherries have been good for the domestic market, but for the vast majority of this year’s crop, about 60 per cent of it goes to export and comes on a little bit later,” Mr Cornish said. “The bulk of our cherries get harvested from now to the middle of February, but overall, things look pretty good for the crop.” Tassie cherry growers export into Asian countries for the widespread Lunar New Year celebrations, with the industry still feeling positive despite Australia’s trade tensions with China. Lunar New Year celebrations happen, this year from February 11 until February 26. “Last year, our biggest market was Hong Kong, and our second biggest market was China, with our third biggest Taiwan,” Mr Cornish said. “Our other important markets were in Thailand and Singapore and about 17 or 18 different countries where our cherries, in particular, were exported. “We’re still very hopeful. “It’s a longstanding market with longstanding customers. “We’re not a big part of that overall trade to China, but it’s a very important market, and we are still continuing and at this stage, it’s business as usual. “It’s certainly helped by the new (faster) air freight service running out of Hobart into Hong Kong, then Taiwan, China, and Japan.” Mr Cornish said exports to China came under a different protocol system to Hong Kong. He said Hong Kong was a separate and “very open market” in terms of trading requirements. “Overall, our cherry industry production for export is worth in the $60 million to $70 million range each year, and we expect it to be up this year anywhere from 10 to 20 per cent,” he said. Partly due to an expected bumper crop and increased plantings in several areas throughout the State, which would continue for the next three to five years. IN OTHER NEWS: “The message at this point is that it’s a really good time of year,” Mr Cornish said. That’s with the cherry crop to come together in a busy six to eight week period and Tassie’s berry industry represents a $200 million crop, with the apple harvest still to come. The struggle to find a seasonal workforce has been a factor this year, but the industry tried to prepare itself ahead of time. “It’s certainly very tight, and it depends on the location and the approach taken by different growers,” Mr Cornish said. “A number of the bigger growers have gone out very early to get people engaged and inducted, and that seems to have paid off. There’s no question about that. “It’s a little bit harder on the North-West Coast given the nature of the population because we are relying so much on local workers this year.” Mr Cornish said the industry identified the seasonal labour requirements and initiatives were introduced to prepare for what was to be a tricky harvest to get workers due to COVID-19. “At the peak, usually about half the positions get filled by working holiday makers…hence the campaign to employ locals,” Mr Cornish said. He praised the government for getting on board early with a range of responses, including easing border restrictions to get seasonal workers back from interstate. He said two flights had come into Tassie, and there were two more flights due. The challenge was to fill 8000 seasonal jobs and with just 1400 ongoing positions it was tough to rely on locals who want permanent work. However, Mr Cornish said the local workforce campaign indicated the opportunities there are to employ more people in the fruit sector, with the increased investment and growth. “We are employing more people on an ongoing basis, and this is a chance to get involved in the industry.” Why not pick up a subscription to The Advocate? Sign up here.

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