WHILE Chinese consumers have a taste for Australian stonefruit, supplying more to them could prove a problem.
The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences' (ABARES) March 2020 quarter Agricultural Commodities Outlook report, released this week, said growers of summerfruit and cherries would be unlikely to be able to increase production immediately following improvements to market access to China and other Asian areas.
"Supply of orchard fruits cannot be easily increased in the short term, because new plantings may take up to 10 years to reach full bearing age," it said.
"Any increase in exports is more likely to be achieved by diverting product out of less profitable markets to new, higher-value export markets.
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"Adjustments to production can be made over a longer time frame once market relationships are established."
It was a similar story for cherries, despite their conquering push into China.
"Despite the growth in the value of cherry exports since 2011-12, production has not increased significantly," the ABARES report said.
"Between 2011-12 and 2017-18 the number of cherry trees nationally fell by 9pc, but the number in Tasmania increased by 13pc.
"This shift in production out of the mainland occurred because Tasmania is recognised as a pest-free area.
"As a result, export consignments from Tasmania to some high-value north Asian and South-East Asian markets and the United States do not have to undergo post-harvest treatment.
"They therefore command a higher export value per unit than cherries from the mainland."
Avoiding market divorces
AUSTRALIA'S access lucrative overseas markets is only as viable as its ability to toe the line with export protocol requirements.
"Once lost, restoration of market access can be a long process," the ABARES report warned.
It said there were risks involved in being overly-reliant on a single export destination but that was a gamble many were willing to take.
This caused the complete loss of trade of cherry and summerfruit exports to Vietnam in 2015-16.
"The higher returns from those markets in the long term may outweigh the risk of short-term losses caused by potential market disruptions," the report said.
"However, slow uptake notwithstanding, it is generally important for agricultural industries to have a broad range of accessible markets to mitigate the risk of losses from sudden market closures or disruptions, or imposition of trade barriers."
It gave the example of Australian stonefruit losing access to Vietnam in 2015 due to concerns over Queensland fruit flies in export consignments.
"This caused the complete loss of trade of cherry and summerfruit exports to Vietnam in 2015-16," the report said.
"In 2013 cherry exports to Vietnam had been worth $2.3m (6pc of total cherry exports) and summerfruit $1.9 million (4pc of total summerfruit exports)
"Market access for cherries was restored on 3 October 2017.
"By 2018-19 cherry exports to Vietnam were valued at $9.4 million (12pc of total cherry exports).
"Market access for Australian summerfruit to Vietnam has not yet been restored."