Tassie cherries ripe for export growth

25th June 2021 | Eativity editors

A government program to support Australian exporters negotiating the impacts of COVID-19 has helped lift Tasmanian cherry exports to record figures. According to Fruit Growers Tasmania, the state’s cherry exports increased by 40 percent in 2020-21, accounting for 51 percent of Australia’s total cherry exports of 4741 tonnes, valued at AU$82.69 million.

Hong Kong, Vietnam, Taiwan, China and Thailand are the leading export markets for Tasmanian cherries, accounting for 80 percent of the state’s exports. The federal government’s International Freight Assistance Mechanism (IFAM), a temporary measure initiated to restore critical global supply chains impacted by COVID-19, has helped reconnect global airlinks, allowing Australian businesses to reach international customers.

A shipment of Huon Valley growers BW Griggs & Sons cherries arrive in Macau.

“Since April 2020, IFAM has supported some 50 flights out of Hobart carrying a variety of produce – including cherries, abalone, rock lobster and salmon – to key markets in Asia, Europe and the Middle East,” says Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Dan Tehan.

Gavin Pearce, Member for Braddon – a rural electorate in the north west and west of Tasmania – says COVID presented substantial challenges to the state’s cherry exporters.

“The grounding of international passenger flights during the pandemic left many Tasmanian cherry exporters unable to get their produce into key international markets,” he says. “The IFAM program provided important support, and the extraordinary volume of cherry exports under difficult circumstances is testament to the industry’s resilience and ability to adapt.”

The main varieties of Tasmanian cherries include Lapin, Sweetheart and these richly dark Kordia.

Victoria (32%), New South Wales (13%) and South Australia (4%) also successfully exported fresh cherries abroad in the past 12 months. The Australian cherry season lasts for around 100 days, spanning spring and summer. Although it’s Australia’s third-largest cherry producer, Tasmania has the shortest harvest window of only eight weeks, while the majority of the cherry-growing states have three to four months of harvest.

Fruit Growers Tasmania CEO Peter Cornish says the 40 percent export increase year-to-year is the state cherry industry’s second largest rise on record.

“For the Tasmanian cherry industry to perform so strongly during the pandemic is a great credit to the many years of hard work by our growers,” he says.

“Tasmanian cherry growers continue to invest in the industry, employing more people, increasing production through new plantings, improved grading, sorting and packaging, and a long-term focus on providing the best cherries in the world.”