September 17th, 2015
The Australian Mango Industry Association (AMIA) is aiming for improved protocols in overseas markets, with a longer term desire to move away from vapor heat treatment (VHT) requirements and ultimately irradiation as well.
Gavin Scurr in a Honey Gold orchard
AMIA chairman Gavin Scurr tells www.freshfruitportal.com studies in the Northern Territory show hard green-picked commercial mangoes are not a host for fruit fly, which could have significant implications for the sector if the science is accepted on a global scale.
“It’s the same as with bananas. They’re picked green, they’re not treated as a host and they don’t have these kinds of protocols in place,” he says
“If we could get it internationally recognized that commercial Australian mangoes are not a fruit fly host it would open up a lot of opportunities for the industry.
“It could be a game-changer. It’s about finding out what information would be needed to look into it.”
The AMIA is reluctant to push the matter in the U.S. where it achieved market access at the start of this year, but Scurr is hopeful global and Australian experts will investigate more deeply into the issue, combining the findings with a systems approach to forge a practical commercial reality.
“From an AMIA perspective, we want to export 20% of our crop going forward. Last year we got up to 10% and we’d been going at 8% for a long time,” Scurr says.
“The [Australian] dollar dropping is certainly helping in that regard, and now we need to work on protocols in a way that meets both our and our importers’ objectives; they don’t want pests and diseases, we don’t want that either; they want our fruit and we want to sell them our fruit,” he says, adding key target markets also include New Zealand, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, China and South Korea.
Scurr heads up Piñata Farms, which will start shipping Queensland-grown Honey Gold mangoes to the U.S. in mid-December with its partner, specialty trader Melissa’s Produce.
“We’re more expensive than the competition from South America but we have a tastier product. It will be interesting to see what the American public thinks of Australian mangoes,” he says.
“The Honey Gold comes from the Kensington variety and it’s very nice tasting, has no strings and has a juicy, yellow flesh. Wherever we go in the world people like it.”
Piñata would have mangoes ready for export earlier from the Northern Territory, but there have been challenges given the fruit is treated with dimethoate for shipping to fruit fly-free South Australia.
“In the U.S. there is no MRL (maximum residue limit) for dimethoate but that’s what we use at our plant in Katherine,” he says.
Scurr concludes that growing conditions have been good this year and Australian demand is very high for local growers, but it is necessary to develop overseas markets to adapt to increasing production in the years to come.
Protocol frustration at the Top End
Ian Quin is a Northern Territory grower who is ready to export mangoes to the U.S. right now, but he says the protocol and its administration have been unclear to date.
“Personally we’ve got orders, we’ve been ready to go for two months, and we’re getting a bit frustrated because we can’t get in there,” says Quin, who is a director at Tou’s Garden.
“Our idea is to get something there as soon as possible, go over and follow it up, and get some bulk into the U.S. in November.”
He said different bureaucratic bodies were giving mixed messages about the timing processes needed for export, with some suggesting a 30-day waiting period was needed after importers that express interest are audited, while others say it is possible to export right away.
“One of the problems is the packaging – the packaging is in very expensive individual boxes, something like AUD$8 (US$5.73) a box, which blows the project out of the water beyond tests mainly; we’re trying to get generic netting over the pallets which would probably make it a lot cheaper,” he says.
“Our big problem is that the protocols weren’t cemented in after the trial shipment earlier in the year from the east coast.
“We are going to persevere and we’re fairly determined to get some in there this year, it’s only a sample, and get the protocols clear.”
He says Tou’s Garden grows four mango varieties; two from Australia and two from Thailand, and it is the latter that will most likely be sent to the U.S.
“It will be first-grade fruit and we would like to cater to the Asian clientele in America because we work with a Thai exporter association.
“They supply a variety in Switzerland for example and we back them up off season, and we’d do the same in Australia. There would be some Asian varieties coming there we hope for them [in the U.S.].