Hort Innovation Australia (HIA) – Australia’s national research, development and marketing corporation – is this week hosting a visit to some of the country’s key production regions from a delegation of Chinese quarantine officials and fresh produce companies.
The 11 delegates represent four key Chinese provinces and include the high-ranking director of the China Entry-Exit Inspection Quarantine Association’s (CIQA) Plant and Animal Health Committee – a key agency charged with determining imports into the country.
The Chinese quarantine officials today (22 March) visited Mildura in Australia’s Sunraysia region – a major table grape and citrus export production hub. They inspected two local farms to get a close-up look at produce quality and processes as HIA steps up its push to increase exports into China.
HIA trade specialist Angus Street said the activity is the first to take place following a Memorandum of Understanding the HIA signed with CIQA in September last year.
“Today’s site tours represent a momentous occasion in the history of Australian and China horticultural trade relations,” he said.
“This visit marks the first of many activities Australia and China will participate in with the interest of strengthening horticulture trade between both our countries.”
“Today the delegation gets a close up look into how the stringent packing, pest management and produce quality standards of Australian fruit growers align with China’s requirements.”
Fruit Tree Trading farm manager Francis Garreffa said it was an honour to walk the delegation through his farm operations, adding that tour was great for the region’s profile.
“The visit has put Mildura on the map for the Chinese delegates,” he said. “It is fantastic that we are able to showcase where more than 2,000 tonnes of the table grapes China imports each year come from – and how we follow the stringent packing and pest management requirements China has in place.”
After Mildura, the delegation is visiting stonefruit and apple orchards in Cobram and Shepparton. Yesterday, the group also toured Melbourne retailers to gain a sense of the quality and range of fresh produce available in Australia’s domestic retailers.
HIA chair Selwyn Snell formally welcomed the delegation to Australia yesterday evening in Melbourne at a cocktail reception attended by the heads of Australia’s citrus, apple and pear, stonefruit and table grape industry bodies.
“Our MoU seeks to deepen our relationship and demonstrates our long-term commitment to building the relationship between Australia and China,” said Snell. “It acknowledges the importance of enabling two-way trade and overcoming barriers to concluding import protocols.”
Snell thanked Feng Chunguang, director of the animal and plant health committee at CIQA, for facilitating the delegation. He introduced deputy director general at Xinjiang CIQ Shi Jian, an experienced figure in managing entry-exit and quarantine issues, who thanked HIA for organising the delegation and hailed its significance in building on the MoU between CIQA and HIA.
Victoria’s fruit exports to China have almost doubled over the past year, according to Street: “By the end of last year, exports of Victorian citrus, table grapes, cherries and apples had increased by 8,588 tonnes, up 81 per cent up on the previous year.”
Nevertheless, he said HIA was to committed to working with growers and with Chinese government and industry officials to boost the trade.