AUSTRALIAN citrus and grape exports to Vietnam are back on the table, following a seven-month suspension.
The Vietnamese government stopped issuing import permits for fresh Australian fruit from January 1 this year and sought advice regarding Australia’s management of Mediterranean fruit fly (Medfly).
According to the Australian Horticultural Exporters Association (AHEA), the Australian horticulture industry stood to lose more than $40 million per annum with the ban affecting some 41 commodities.
Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce said Vietnam had sought stronger assurances around a range of bio security measures.
“We value our trade relationship with Vietnam very highly and we are committed to providing Vietnam with products that meet their importing country requirements,” Mr Joyce said.
“Australia takes bio security very seriously, and I am very pleased that we have been able to satisfy Vietnam’s requirements for horticultural exports of the highest standard.
“That is why I have worked closely with the Vietnamese Minister for Agriculture, Minister Phat—to ensure that our nations are working together as closely as possible to address any concerns.
“Australia has been able to provide detailed assurances of the strength of the systems we have in place.
“Most recently, my department facilitated a verification inspection visit by Vietnamese officials in May 2015. On this visit, draft import protocols were provided by Vietnam towards reinstating access for oranges, mandarins and table grapes.
“We have seen that work bear fruit today, with Vietnam issuing new import permits for certain varieties of citrus and table grapes.”
AHEA executive director Michelle Christoe said the ban in Vietnam should never have happened.
“Australia was put on notice of the potential ban and it should have been more proactive to bring it to resolve,” she said in February.
“Only time will tell whether the ban will have the same long lasting impact that similar bans from Taiwan and Thailand have had in recent years, and the time it will take to get back into those markets.”
CEO of the Australian Table Grape Association, Jeff Scott, said the resumption of exports to Vietnam was welcome news.
“Prior to the suspension, table grapes represented $32 million out of a total $40.9 million in Australian fresh fruit exports to Vietnam—so Vietnam is a very important market for grapes. It is our second biggest export market,” Mr Scott said.
“All table grape growers will be extremely pleased with the resumption of trade and are thankful for the effort of the Department of Agriculture to enable trade to commence in time for our next export season.”
Citrus Australia CEO Judith Damiani also welcomed the development.
“I’m delighted to see this market open in time for the current citrus export season,” Ms Damiani said.
“I know some of our grower-exporters will be keen to resume trade with Vietnam over the next few months.”
Mr Joyce said it was a win-win situation.
“Opening market access for Australian producers allows them to command higher prices at the farmgate, while expanding consumer choice in overseas markets,” he said.
“I anticipate the conclusion of these protocols will facilitate similar processes for reinstating trade with Vietnam for other horticulture commodities currently affected by the suspension.
“It is important that trade resumes as soon as possible, both for the livelihoods of our horticulturalists and so that Vietnamese consumers have the opportunity to purchase quality produce from Australia.
“This kind of two-way trade allows Australian consumers access to goods out of season; and assist the growth and profitability of our domestic industries in a global market.”
In 2014 Australian exported over 13,000 tonnes of fruit to Vietnam valued at $40.9 million.