Berry export to world's biggest market enters political fray
THE world's largest population wants a cut of our blueberry supply but restrictions are cutting off an export deal worth millions of dollars.
According to the China's Market for Australian Blueberries: A Once-in-a-Lifetime Opportunity report, blueberries will become the fastest growing fruit category in China.
The report claimed higher incomes coupled with recognition of the berries nutritional values of lead to an increased demand for blueberries in China.
International Blueberry Organisation president Peter McPherson said Australian berries were particularly high in demand because of their quality.
"There is a market window there in our peak season between September and November each year that we believe our blueberries will be the premium blueberries in that country," Mr McPherson said.
He said there was a "political" roadblock which has applied the brakes on Chinese export deals.
Assistant Minister to the Deputy Prime Minister Luke Hartsuyker said trade deals took years to finalise.
"The average time for product entry is nine years," Mr Hartsuyker said.
He said the Federal Government had put "a lot of effort in" negotiating with Chinese counterparts and the blueberry industry.
"There is works going on at a very cautious pace," he said.
"Blueberries are a very high priority."
He said every producer wanted their product at the top of the priority list which has been filled by nectarines, apples and stone fruit.
Shadow Minister for Trade Jason Clare flew from Sydney for the day and caught up with Mr McPherson today at the Costa Corindi Berry Farm.
Mr Clare said he had written to Barnaby Joyce, asking to fast track the development of the export protocol for blueberries.
"This is a massive market. We're talking about millions and millions of potential blueberry customers and we can't sell them a single blueberry at the moment," Mr Clare said.
He said this deal would create more jobs for the Mid North Coast.
Costa's domestic berry general manager David Jordan said the industry employed about 2000 people on a permanent basis in NSW. This figure rose to about 6,500 during peak season.