THE first Tasmanian cherries left the state last week for China.
Cherry Growers Australia president Andrew Smith said the organisation had worked with the federal Department of Agriculture, and the Chinese Agency of General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine to gain access to "this significant export market".
Mr Smith said that the new market access protocol, allowing for the shipment of cherries from Tasmania to China, followed many years of negotiations.
Export shipments of cherries will be sent from about 10 Tasmanian growers through to the end of Tasmania's 2013 cherry season, a period that will include the lucrative Chinese New Year gift-giving period.
Fruit Growers Tasmania business development manager Lucy Gregg said that the market access was a fantastic opportunity for Tasmanian cherry growers and exporters to access another key Asian market.
"We currently have access to Taiwan, South Korea and Japan due to our area-free status for fruit fly and a range of other non-protocol markets across Asia, Europe and other regions," Ms Gregg said.
"The Tasmanian industry has expanded significantly over the last five years and with production to increase further over the next few years it is very important that we develop more significant export markets.
"Currently 10 Tasmanian growers have indicated that they would like to send cherries to China for this season but it is expected more than 50 growers may consider sending fruit from Tasmania into the Chinese market next season."
Cherry Growers Australia chief executive officer Simon Boughey said that the industry had a strong commercial advantage working with Asian markets because it was able to send cherries by air to their destination within two to three days of harvest.
"Even when shipped by sea, product can arrive within 14 to 16 days, still far quicker than our main competitor Chile, whose product takes six weeks by sea," Mr Boughey said.