Scott Montague

Leading Australian fresh produce company Montague has revealed its plans to open office in China as part of efforts to expand its export operations.

Managing director, Scott Montague said the family-owned business is solidifying its presence in the key market and partnering with a firm that has been building the Montague brand in China for five years.

“There is a groundswell of acceptance for Australia’s clean, green produce in China, so we are keen to increase our investment by fulfilling the demand for our fruit,” said Montague.

The office is set to open in December 2021 as the Australian stonefruit season begins to ramp up. Stonefruit and apples have made up the bulk of the company’s export business for many years, but it is now striving to export more table grapes, citrus, and cherries off the back of arecent acquisition.

“By exporting citrus and table grapes, we can get our premium quality, Australian-grown products and brand in front of customers all year long,” said Montague.

“Austrade is also assisting us to branch out into new markets, such as Japan and Korea, and also Taiwan, where we hope to export stonefruit.”

“We already export some late-season plums to Canada but we believe there is potential to open up this country to our world-class table grapes, plums, peaches and nectarines.”

Servicing export markets has become more challenging since the onset of the Covid-19 due to significant supply chain disruption. However, Montague has been supported by the Australian government’s International Freight Assistance Mechanism (Ifam).

“Without Ifam ensuring that airlinks are kept open during the pandemic, airfreight would be virtually impossible for us,” said Montague.

“Airfreight delivery is over 50 per cent of our stonefruit export business. We also export stonefruit by sea to China, Canada, Malaysia and Singapore, and table grapes to China, Vietnam, Thailand, Korea, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore.

“Seafreight is significantly cheaper per carton than airfreight and is a viable option for us, as long as vessel schedules are maintained.”

To support its export expansion Montague has been developing fruit with flavour profiles to match Asian tastes.

“Investing in new varietals and genetic innovation allows us to differentiate our fruit, particularly for export. We do this through our branding. We have Croc Egg plums and Montague Tree for plums, nectarines, peaches, citrus and table grapes,” said Montague

“The stonefruit varietals are bigger, firmer, sweeter and crunchier than competitor products – which makes them more enjoyable to eat without the mess. Asian consumers prefer these varietals and associate our brand with these attributes.

“We have a clear strategy to expand our business for the future, both here in Australia, and internationally – and it’s starting to bear fruit.”