Over the past 12 months, Australian exporters have sought to take advantage of increased market access through irradiation protocols.
Consequently, Steritech, a company that has pioneered the use of irradiation treatment in Australia, has seen record volumes of fresh fruit flow through its facility in Brisbane.
Having installed Australia’s first whole-pallet irradiator for fresh produce in 2002, Steritech is on the cusp of unveiling another piece of market-leading infrastructure, with a hybrid E-beam/X-ray facility set to open in Melbourne later this year.
“We are proud to be providing this technology and advantage to Australian exporters, but we also hope it plays an important R&D role with our complementary trade partners like New Zealand,” said Ben Reilly, Steritech’s fresh produce business manager.
“The implementation of X-ray technology will provide the first, broadly effective end-point-treatment in the world that is heat-free, cold-chain friendly and able to be powered with renewable energy.”
Reilly said the new facility will allow Steritech to better service crops predominantly grown in southern parts of Australia, thereby providing exporters with a faster route to market.
“Table grapes became our number one item last year, and this year we treated well over 2,000 tonnes, despite consignments having to travel days by road to our existing Brisbane facility,” he explained. “Our Melbourne X-ray facility will drastically improve shipment turnaround times for cherries and grapes that are grown only a few hours away.
“Australian table grape exports to Vietnam have been a wonderful story for us, with 30 per cent of the total exports treated via irradiation and air-freighted to market.”
Reilly said the success of the table grape programmes into Vietnam underlines the strategic importance of irradiation treatment if Australia is to capitalise on its premium quality and proximity advantage in major Asian markets.
“By adding effective airfreight, Australia will always be the freshest in market when competing with other Southern Hemisphere producers,” Reilly told Asiafruit. “It improves our service levels and premium offerings, creating a halo effect that benefits all Australian exports.”
The Australian industry will further position itself as a leader in the utilisation of irradiation treatment when the 9th Chapman Phytosanitary Irradiation Forum comes to Melbourne on 23-26 March 2020.
The forum's programme includes a day focused on regulatory matters, as well as another tailored to the interests of commercial industry. The final day will be a tour of our new X-ray facility.
“We are extremely excited to host the event for the first time in Australia,” Reilly said. “It’s quite timely with the growing trade between South-East Asia, Australia and New Zealand.
“This is the only global event for phytosanitary irradiation. It has a lot of great information that will interest everyone, whether they are new to the technology or long-time experts.”
This article appeared in the October edition of Asiafruit Magazine, out now.