03/09/2009 - 00:00

Heat’s on for mango exporters

03/09/2009 - 00:00

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WESTERN Australian tropical fruit growers and exporters have welcomed lower trade barriers to key markets such as China, but acknowledge there are challenges associated with that.

POSSIBILITIES: Andrew Radomiljac says prospects for mango exports to China are excellent. Photo: Grant Currall

WESTERN Australian tropical fruit growers and exporters have welcomed lower trade barriers to key markets such as China, but acknowledge there are challenges associated with that.

One of the key issues is that processes - such as heat treatment or radiation - to meet export market quarantine rules are not yet available in WA.

The state's potential in the tropical fruit market is undoubted, given its seasonal peak coincides with lulls in global production. In the case of mangoes, a temperate climate extends the fruit's shelf life, giving local fruit growers a quality advantage in the global market.

But the fledgling nature of the state's industry means it may be two years before technology is available in WA to treat mangoes against pests before export.

The practice of cutting thousands of mangoes to prove the absence of weevils ended following recent changes to the direct access protocol for trade with China.

It now prescribes the heat treatment of mangoes to rid the fruit of fruit fly prior to exporting to China, with radiation treatment also becoming an acceptable method.

Peter Johnson from the Department for Agriculture and Food told WA Business News that, while theoretically it had become easier for growers to meet the protocol for exporting to China, heat and radiation treatment facilities were not currently available in WA.

At the moment, WA mango growers and agents wanting to ship mangoes to China must do so via interstate ports, lowering their profit margins.

Mr Johnson said while the facilities were expensive to buy and to run, the technology could improve the state's mango trade opportunities with China.

"More and more markets are opening up, but it is difficult to access them because heat treatment is required," he said.

One WA supplier currently exporting mangoes to China is Perth-based Rewards Group.

Rewards Group's director Andrew Radomiljac told WA Business News the prospects for mango exporting to China as a result of the protocol changes were excellent and attributed the increase in demand for WA mangoes, particularly the R2E2 variety, to the protocol changes.

Dr Radomiljac forecasts WA mango industry exports to grow significantly as production increases.

Mano Babiolakis from Global Rewards, the Rewards Group's exporting joint venture, said the supplier currently produced 300,000 cartons of mangoes per season, a volume too small to justify investment in a heat treatment facility.

However, the company has plans to significantly increase the volume of mangoes it produces and expects to invest in a heat treatment plant within two years to realise the potential of the mango exporting industry.

Global Rewards is also targeting further opportunities outside the mango business.

For instance, its international pink grapefruit exports doubled in the past year as a result of increased production and marketing efforts.

A combination of less-stringent protocols, a gap in global pink grapefruit seasons and the development of controlled atmosphere shipping services opened international markets for pink grapefruit to WA.

"The red flesh grapefruit market has enormous potential, both domestically and internationally", Dr Radomiljac said.

Global Rewards group caters to the pink grapefruit markets in UK, Russia, Holland, UAE, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore. The group is lobbying for access to the Japanese market, as exporting to the region offers significant growth opportunities.

 

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