TRIAL batches of Sunshine Coast mangoes and lychees are set to be sent to the USA, helping growers to open up a big new market and potentially give them a higher return for their produce.
Federal Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce was in Mooloolah today to announce the latest trade development, which will see trial shipments of Australian mangoes sent to the US next week in preparation for next season, with lychees to follow.
Mr Joyce said the move would enable small-crop and tropical-crop producers to become more sustainable.
"This means the small-crop and tropical-crop producers of this part of the world have yet another market to get more product moving from the Sunshine Coast into the US," he said.
Mr Joyce admitted while other nations could produce crops for less, the quality of Australian product made it sought after internationally.
"What sells Australian product is quality and Australian producers know this," he said.
"They know this in the lychee industry, they know this in the mango industry.
"We're not there to just be the best price, we're there to be the best product and be paid a premium for the best product."
With national mango and lychee exports accounting annually for about $16 million and $18-$20 million respectively, the opportunity to grow the two markets was important to diversify local economies, particularly in regions such as the Sunshine Coast.
"I think it's really important especially in places such as the Sunshine Coast, Bundaberg... that we don't just have one-string economies where the people are just totally reliant on tourism," Mr Joyce said.
Mooloolah Valley Orchard co-owner and experienced lychee farmer Jill Houser said work had been ongoing since 2013 to enable access to the US market for local producers, a vital income source as they battled ever-decreasing revenue streams domestically.
"It's tough. Every industry is tough growing fruit," she said.
"Wages are a killer. Everything is going up - wages, freight, packaging - everything goes up but the price of lychees remains the same or goes down, so any profit margin gets less and less every year.
"So if we can get more fruit offshore and less on the domestic market, it should drive the price back up."
While moves to drive prices up internationally had sparked some concern among domestic consumers, mango suppliers in Northern Queensland had previously assured Australian mango lovers supply could be increased to keep prices down.
Trevor Dunmall, industry development manager for the Australian Mango Industry Association, said the announcement was a crucial move in the peak body's goal to double mango exports over the next three years.
"For mango growers throughout Australia, having access to the US is something we've been working for with the Federal Government and the minister's office for quite some time," Mr Dunmall said.
"American consumers in general are increasing their consumption of tropical fruits across the board. They're used to getting mangoes from Central America and South America.
"Our mangoes are much higher quality, much better flavour, so we believe there's a significant market there for us."
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