As the Australian citrus season gets underway with a good crop of high-quality fruit, exporters still face many challenges.
“The main worry is the delays in the logistical chain,” explains Sam Vasala from SaiWorld. “Many countries are either still in lockdown or going into lockdown again and vessels are seeing delays. On a journey that should take 18 days we are now seeing voyage time of up to 27 days and when you have fresh fruit onboard that can make a huge difference to quality on arrival in the market. One shipping company has just introduced an extra surcharge of 1200 USD so it is also getting more and more expensive. 2020 was a challenging season, but 2021 will be even more challenging.”
Sai World ship a lot to India, Vietnam, Canada and South Korea and according to Sam the markets are very difficult at the moment due to the ongoing lockdowns there and new lockdowns soon. Far off markets like Canada will also be a challenge where the shipping time is normally 28-32 days but may now face additional sailing time.
“This season only quality fruit will be able to get to the market in good condition. Many people are nervous about shipping to India in particular and I foresee a shortage on that market.
“We are still picking and shipping grapes to Vietnam, Japan and UK as we have grapes from one of the latest producing vineyards in Australia (Beverley Road Farms) and we want to follow this up with shipments of citrus.”
This season Sai World have a new grower on board: Devlin’s Pound. “This has been in the planning for a while, and we are doing things differently with them. Most companies pack citrus in a standard way, working with Devlin’s Pound we will pack for the individual markets based on their requirements. We have looked at the various markets to see what they want instead of packing and trying to sell, we will be tailoring our packs to their needs, and we are packing different sized cartons for each one. We are also packing directly into bags for the first time for Vietnam and will do a trial of bags to the UK, Japan, South Korea, Canada and Indian markets. These are great for the retail customers.”
The citrus growing season in Australia has been very good with plenty of rain earlier in the year which has led to sizes between 72-80s(18 kg carton size) great quality and good colour with high brix.
Australia is expected to increase volumes by 25%. “We are expecting a good season on the production side and I think only the premium fruit will do well on the Asian markets. We have shipped our first 2 containers of high quality citrus this week.
“The upside of the difficulties in exporting has been seeing some of Australia’s premium fruit on the domestic retailer’s shelves this season, for example grapes. Usually, the best quality fruit gets exported so it great to see this fruit in our own supermarkets.”