RIVERLAND fruitgrowers will soon be able to export their produce to China without cold treatment after the Chinese government recognised the region as a pest-free area.
The pest-free area recognition includes all horticulture commodities grown in the Riverland.
The announcement, which came last week after years of negotiations with the state and federal governments and Chinese officials, was welcomed by Horticulture Coalition SA chairperson Susie Green.
“It opens up a tremendous raft of opportunities for the region as a whole,” she said.
“Export is becoming an increasing focus for many crops within horticulture, there’s some fantastic opportunities and obviously China is a key market for many crops.”
Ms Green said having the pest-free area recognised across every horticultural group was great for all growers.
“Hopefully we will see fruit as early as this season heading over to China,” she said.
Shipping Riverland produce directly to China without treatment for fruit fly will reduce costs and delays for producers and exporters across the supply chain.
Nippy’s joint managing director Jeff Knispel said the pest-free status was a “huge breakthrough”, estimating the savings from fruit fly treatment would equate to growers’ harvest expenses.
“We had a situation where from China’s perspective, they didn’t recognise the Riverland as fruit fly-free, and that meant every packer had to deal with fruit fly treatments, even though we didn’t have it,” he said.
Nippy’s exports about 25,000 tonnes annually, 4000t of which is exported to China.
“From a grower's point of view, the saving almost equates to harvesting costs,” Mr Knispel said.
“It’s almost like looking at next year, and if we sell at the same prices, the additional return would almost fund the harvesting costs.”
SA’s citrus industry is the main benefactor of the Riverland’s pest-free status, exporting $102 million worth of citrus in 2015-16.
In 2016-17 SA citrus exports to China were valued at $9.1m.
Minister for Agriculture, Food and Fisheries Leon Bignell said it was a major win for SA, and for Chinese consumers who would have access to fresher fruit.
“The state government spends $5m a year on maintaining and promoting our fruit fly-free status,” he said. “It is not always easy, but it is certainly worth the effort to gain valuable new market access.”
Citrus Australia SA Region chairperson Steve Burdette said exported fruit would be a lot fresher when not subject to cold sterilisation.