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Bumper cherry harvest expected, but growers worried season will fail to deliver high prices with no new export markets

Cherry growers are gearing up to begin harvest this week for what’s expected to be one of their biggest crops.

But despite the forecast bumper crop, growers are disappointed that opportunities to export their cherries are limited.

No progress has been made on reopening key Asian markets and there’s an embargo on sending fruit to Russia.

Tom Eastlake, the national Chair of the Cherry Growers Association, says improving market access will be high on the agenda at an industry Conference in New South Wales this weekend.”The last ten years, probably the biggest loss was access to Thailand,” Mr Eastlake said.

“Market access to Korea is limited now for mainland cherries.

“Vietnam was lost as of January 1st this year.

“And there is no air freight access for mainland cherries to China, and the sea freight access is unworkable.

“So export opportunities this year are fairly limited,” he said.

The cherry season opening will be marked at a conference at Young, in New South Wales this weekend, with delegates from the Federal Department of Agriculture and Water Resources (DAWR) and the Ambassador from Thailand in attendance.

“We are waiting for cold disinfestation of cherries into Thailand to be gazetted, but we are hoping for air freight access,” Mr Eastlake said.

He said a number of growers had already registered their packing sheds in mainland Australia ready to begin exporting cherries.

“They continue to pay thousands of dollars for registration and audits for export to China knowing that the current sea freight protocol China is unworkable.

“They won’t ship a single ship box under that protocol without improvement to it.

“But that’s their commitment and resolve to prove to China they are ready to export,” he said.

On the launch of the 2015-2016 season, Mr Eastlake has already declared it a failure.

“Whatever happens during 2015, 2016, harvest, this year will be a failure,” he said.

“Because of no other reason but that we have not achieved a single new market access protocol, or a single bit of market improvement to any of the protocols we currently have to facilitate further exports.”