AUSTRALIAN growers might have their sites focused on Asia for export growth but a leading UK-based cherry import specialist has urged southern hemisphere suppliers not to overlook the European market.
Norton Folgate managing director, Matt Hancock, says Europe’s cherry market is essentially “a game of two halves” with 80 per cent of sales in the summer and much lower volume in the winter.
While Europe may not exactly be on the radar of Australian producers, Mr Hancock called on southern hemisphere growers to keep Europe in mind even though it may not yet meet benchmark prices set by the Chinese trade.
“If you look at the stats in the winter, the UK is taking 50 to 60 per cent of the volume going to Europe from South America, yet it’s only a small percentage of the market,” Mr Folgate said.
“I would say the rest of Europe is significantly under-trading.
“There’s a big opportunity there if we can find the right hook to get European consumers to buy into winter cherries and we can start engaging with consumers.”
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He says prices to date in China have held up better than expected given such an enormous increase in Chilean cherry arrivals, and at the same time a strengthening of the Euro hasn’t been enough to close the price differential between the EU and China.
Last year the Federal Government announced a deal to allow fresh cherries from Australia’s mainland to be air-freighted to China.
Changes to fumigation requirements allow mainland cherries to reach Chinese supermarkets within 48 to 72 hours of harvest.
Australian cherries have had access to China since 2013 but only Tasmanian cherries were able to be sent due to fruit fly concerns.
According to Cherry Growers Australia, 30 per cent of Australian cherries are exported to more than 30 countries.
Asian market destinations, such as China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan receive the majority of Australian exports.
Emerging and potential export markets include the United States and the Middle East.
But Mr Hancock said “throwing containers of cherries around Europe and hoping they’re going to sell" isn’t going to work.
“There needs to be a much more targeted and thought-out strategic plan to actually approach that market, and support it with some promotional funding,” he said.
“The growers themselves need to be committed to doing something more innovative – benchmarking everything against the Chinese return is not going to be the way forward for developing that continental business.”
He said other more niche exporters like Argentina and South Africa were quickly gaining ground in the European winter cherry season.
Mr Hancock, who will be speaking on the topic at the Global Cherry Summit in Chile on April 25.