Tasmanian cherries ripe for export
A government program to support Australian exporters negotiating the impacts of COVID has helped lift exports of Tasmanian cherries to record figures. According to Fruit Growers Tasmania, the state’s cherry exports increased by 40 percent in 2020-21. This accounts 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. Together, they account for 80 percent of the state’s exports. The federal government’s International Freight Assistance Mechanism (IFAM) has allowed cherry businesses to reach international markets during the pandemic. This temporary measure was initiated to restore critical global supply chains impacted by COVID. It’s helped reconnect global airlinks, allowing Aussie businesses to reach customers.
Exports flying high
“Since April 2020, IFAM has supported 50 flights out of Hobart carrying a variety of produce,” says Minister for Trade Dan Tehan. “This is getting cherries, and also abalone, rock lobster and salmon, to key international markets in Asia, Europe and the Middle East.”
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 flights left many Tasmanian cherry exporters unable to get produce into key markets,” he says. “The IFAM program provided important support. But the extraordinary volume of cherry exports under difficult circumstances is testament to the industry’s resilience and ability to adapt.”
A sweet season
Victoria (32%), New South Wales (13%) and South Australia (4%) also successfully exported fresh cherries 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. Meanwhile, 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. They’re employing more people, increasing production through new plantings, improved grading and packaging. But most importantly, the long-term focus is on producing the best cherries in the world.”