APAL’s Market Development Manager Claire Fitchett examines Australia’s 2013 apple and pear export and import trade data and plans towards improved export opportunities in 2014.
Australia’s apple exports were down 18% in 2013 on 2012 volumes, worth a total of $5.81million. Average prices were also down from $1.97 to $1.89 per kilogram. Whilst these figures are somewhat disappointing, it is important to take a closer look at what has caused this decrease. Indonesia implemented new import conditions which significantly hampered our trade there as fruit importers could not obtain the necessary permits to bring in larger volumes. Strong competition from New Zealand in Asia, particularly Thailand, also played a part.
It’s also interesting to look at the make-up of our exports. If we look at Thailand, we know that Pink Lady™ exports actually increased and lower priced commodity lines decreased so whilst our overall trade to this market was down, the higher priced varieties are taking a bigger share of our trade. I think this is the future for our industry – premium, niche, managed varieties that attract a higher price. It will be very difficult for Australia to compete successfully in commodity lines such as Red Delicious unless the Australian dollar drops significantly (and it is heading in the right direction!). A recent article published in AsiaFruit Magazine on research conducted by Columbia Marketing International confirms this – retailers who “maintain a larger assortment of niche and branded apples such as Ambrosia or Kiku, actively working to entice consumers to switch their purchases from lower priced segments into these more expensive but very flavourful apples.” You only need to look at the success New Zealand is having in Thailand to know this is true.
Papua New Guinea remains our leading export destination, accounting for 46% of our apple exports. These are mainly supplied out of Queensland. The majority of our apple exports go to mining settlements in the region so we can fairly assume the increase in trade to PNG in 2013 offset some of the loss from Indonesia.
The UK continues to be Australia’s second largest export market for apples due to our strong trade in Pink Lady™ apples in the September-October window. Prices for Pink Lady™ to the UK were very good- averaging $2.84/ kg (nearly $1 per kg above the average for all apples). It’s looking really positive for a strong 2014 season to the UK, with our competitors out of the market somewhat and a renewed interest in a quality Australian product. Don’t forget that all Pink Lady™ exports / imports must be handled through a licensed Pink Lady™ exporter / importer. Similarly, importers must also hold an import licence to be able to trade in Pink Lady™. This ensures that we maintain our high product quality specs and premium pricing.
It is great to see apple exports to Malaysia increase 66% in line with our industry-led Australian apple promotions in leading retailer Cold Storage in September. I see this as a great market for Australian growers. It currently does not apply the same strict phytosanitary conditions of other Asian markets and has a large and increasingly wealthy population. Malaysian consumers however are just as fussy when it comes to their premium fruit! If you missed last year’s export study tour to Malaysia, come next time and find out for yourself what local consumers are looking for.
Total apple imports for the year were 347 tonnes, 93% of which were from China. The remainder came from NZ. Compared to other Australian horticulture industries, the apple and pear industry currently has a very low volume of imports relative to local production but this may not stay the same for long.
Team Australia is a group of leading Australian apple exporters who are working together to achieve export goals in Asia and the UK. The group’s goals are ambitious and exciting! This year, the group will run apple promotions in Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, Hong Kong and the UK.
Total pear exports were down 16% in 2013, worth $10.1 million. It is good however to see the price per kilogram up 13% to $1.58.
In 2013, New Zealand was our leading destination (1,469 tonnes), followed closely by Indonesia (1,448 tonnes) and Canada (1,341 tonnes). These three markets continue to be in the top three places, showing that our pear trade is more consistent than our apple exports.
It’s interesting to note that pear exports were spread more evenly throughout 2013 whereas in 2012 the exports were predominantly stacked in the first half of the year. This would be the result of market demand – when Canada is in first place, exports typically only occur in the first half of the year when there is a clear window for our fruit; when a closer market such as NZ or Indonesia is in first place our exporters provide a more consistent trade over a longer period.
As part of the joint project APAL has with Victoria’s Department of Environment and Primary Industries to grow exports to Asia, Australian pear promotions are planned in Indonesia and Singapore this April. We will be running pear promotions in leading retail outlets including Ranch Market, Hypermart and Foodland in the broader Jakarta area, and Cold Storage and NTUC Fairprice in Singapore. Now is a great time for Australian pear growers to get back into export. Our own domestic supply considerations for fresh market pears should be taken into account when looking at options for a long term profitable industry. New varieties from various breeding programs give growers an opportunity to target new consumer segments. I think the new red-skinned firm varieties are really exciting!
APAL is running an export study tour to these two markets in April for interested parties.
Australia imported 1,664 tonnes of pears in 2013 which is about 20% lower than 2012. 96% of this was from China and 4% from South Korea. All imported pears would be Asian style pears.
Not every grower wants to export directly. I can understand that the time constraints, costs and additional work make it unappealing for some! But the important thing to remember is not every grower needs to manage their own exports. There are a multitude of experienced professional organisations out there that can provide this service. Anyone interested in finding out more is welcome to contact me.
The data provided in this blog is provided by Fresh Intelligence Consulting as part of an APAL supported cross-industry project (HAL project MT12009). Access to detailed trade data is critical for the Australian apple and pear industry so we can see where our exports are going (by volume and value) and the volume of fruit imported from various markets. This helps us make informed strategic decisions around market access priorities, marketing and promotions and study tour activities.
If you would like a copy of the trade reports, please email Claire.