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Surge in Hong Kong demand for tablegrapes

There has been a major surge in demand for Australian grapes in Hong Kong and a massive untapped Chinese market beckons according to the Victorian Employers' Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VECCI).

A report commissioned by the Victorian Department of Primary Industries on the Hong Kong and China Market for tablegrapes showed imports of Australian grapes into Hong Kong reached a record US$55 Million in 2009, a surge of 140% over 2008.

“Tablegrape growers are seeing increased demand for their product, particularly from parts of Asia,” says VECCI International Trade manager Patricia Griffiths.

“This is important for horticulture in Robinvale and Sunraysia regions, where 80% of the tablegrape crop is grown and from a region which is in the grip of drought with wine vines being pulled up.

“This is a considerable achievement in a season where growers only received 30% of their full water allocation because of the ongoing drought in the Murray Darling Basin.”

As a result of the export sales some growers have invested in new plantings and improved irrigation equipment over the winter.

“Chinese people love high quality fruit and grapes are no exception,” Griffiths said.

“Hong Kong traders could not get enough crimson seedless and indicated that the quality of Australian fruit was consistently high.”

The market for fruit in this region will continue to grow strongly because of increasing incomes but Australia faces intense competition from other Southern Hemisphere producers, Chile and South Africa.

DPI Regional Manager of Thailand and China Bryan Balmer stressed the importance of Australian growers only supplying the best fruit.

“With the Australian dollar strengthening, market conditions will get tougher and it is vital that we maintain a quality edge to achieve premium prices,” he said.

The Australian Government, through Biosecurity Australia, with support from the Mildura based Australian Table Grape Association (AGTA) are currently in negotiations with their Chinese counterparts to open up the mainland China market to Australia.

Chief executive officer Jeff Scott stressed its importance.

“Chinese consume some five million tons of grapes, with less than 2% being imported,” he said.

“We are counter seasonal to their growing season so the potential of the market is huge, particularly with direct shipments to their major sea ports, in both the North and South of China.”

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