North-West cherry growers John and Adrian Brown are counting their losses this week after tonnes of fruit bound for the Chinese market were grounded due to Tasmania’s fruit fly incursion.
Adrian Brown, who is responsible for cherries at Sassafras Orchards, had to find alternative markets for their fruit during the past week after being locked out of China last Monday.
Biosecurity Tasmania officers visited the farm to inspect their fruit and told the Browns the shipment of between five and six tonnes prepared for transportation to China on Monday could not go.
“We had quite a few consignments ready to send out after the [Australia Day] long weekend and have sent nothing since to China,” Mr Brown said.
Instead of fetching $20 per kilogram in China, the Sassafras-grown cherries were diverted to Hong Kong, Sydney and Brisbane markets and sold for between $8 and $10 per kilogram.
“We will receive about half the money we were going to. When you’re talking about half what you were expecting, it’s not good,” Mr Brown said.
On top of finding alternative markets for the cherries, the Brown had to change shipping and carton arrangements for those new markets.
“We had to change shipments and cartons; it’s been a nightmare,” Mr Brown said.
“I couldn’t estimate the cost of the top of my head,” he said.
John Brown said the Chinese shipment was due to leave Sassafras Orchards at 1pm on Monday, but the Biosecurity Tasmania inspector arrived around 11am.
“If they’d come later the cherries would have been on their way, like the shipment we sent two days earlier,” Mr Brown said.
A Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment department spokesperson said China had fruit fly freedom requirements that must be complied with.
“Generally host produce from within the control area cannot be exported to overseas and local markets that have fruit fly free freedom requirements in place, unless subject to approved treatments,” the spokesperson said.
“Tasmania has not been notified for any change of requirements for exporters and producers outside the control area, meaning that export should continue as normal,” the spokesperson said.
The department is liaising with the federal government and industry to keep them informed.
Braddon Labor MHR Justine Keay said biosecurity cuts were affecting Tasmania’s producers.
“Our local farmers are unfortunately now paying the price for Will Hodgman’s million dollar cut to Tasmania’s biosecurity in his first budget,” Ms Keay said.
“Even now in the midst of this emergency, visitors to Tasmania are arriving by sea and air without any checks at entry ports,” she said.
Primary Industry minister Jeremy Rockliff said the Chinese market remained open to all Tasmanian fruit, except fruit grown within the two control areas.
“Fruit from within the control zones must be treated – to the same level that we would expect any fruit coming into Tasmania to be treated - if it is to enter the Chinese market,” he said.
Visit dpipwe.tas.gov.au/fruitfly for more information about fruit fly and report suspected signs of fruit fly to Biosecurity Tasmania on 6165 3774.