Joseph Ekman of Fresh Produce Group and Christian Jones of Perfection Fresh join board of Australian Horticulture Exporters’ & Importers’ Association

The Australian Horticulture Exporters’ & Importers’ Association (AHEIA) held its AGM on 15 September in Melbourne, electing a board of new and returning members and conducting a members’ forum.


Joseph Saina was re-elected as chairman and Cameron Carter was re-elected as vice chairman. AHEIA also added two new board members, Joseph Ekman of Fresh Produce Group and Christian Jones of Perfection Fresh.

A members’ forum was held following the AGM featuring contributions from a range of speakers. 

Monica Collins, acting first secretary Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) Biosecurity Plant Division, Douglas Kerruish, director A/G DAFF Horticulture Imports Program and Joel Sterling, DAFF Inspections answered questions from members relating to import inspection delays and portal issues.

David Ironside, assistant secretary DAFF Plant Export Operations discussed horticultural exports with members, including market access and what DAFF is doing to ease costs for growers, packing sheds and exporters.

Hort Innovation’s chief executive Brett Fifield and Brei Montgomery spoke about Hort Innovation’s plans for the future, including research into what the overseas consumer wants from Australian fresh produce exporters and who will be buying the country’s produce in the next ten to 15 years.

Sal Milici, the Freight & Trade Alliance’s head of border and biosecurity updated the members on what to expect in the coming year with shipping.

Incoming chairman, Joseph Saina told members that up until the pandemic, Australia had enjoyed some of the cheapest and fastest freight in the world, which offset the country’s high shed door cost of production. However, global logistics constraints have undermined this edge.

He said, in the longer term, improvements in controlled atmosphere transport technologies stand to benefit Australia’s competitors, but they will still struggle to close the quality gap. 

Wayne Prowse from Fresh Intelligence also provided a statistical overview of Australia’s exports and imports breaking down the trade by volume, market and value. He noted Australian export volumes in the mast year matched the first two years of the Covid-19 pandemic but were down approximately 18 per cent when compared with the year prior to Covid-19.