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REFILE: NZ apple exporters reject Aussie market plan

REFILE: NZ apple exporters reject Aussie market plan

By Pattrick Smellie

Sept. 7 (BusinessDesk) – New Zealand apple exporters have delivered a serious blow to apple industry attempts to create a united front for exports into the newly opened Australian apple market.

A majority of exporters have voted against Pipfruit New Zealand Inc.’s proposal to bring Australian apple exports under the mantle of the Horticultural Export Authority, which provides a “semi-disciplined” approach to export marketing.

The 63% vote by exporters against the HEA proposal comes after Pipfruit NZ failed to get the proposal tacked onto omnibus legislation last month after objections by the Act Party. The fast-track move would have allowed HEA involvement in the first season of apple sales to Australia, where the issue is politically contentious.

“Clearly we will have to take stock of this result and look at other options to help achieve the maximum possible grower returns from what is the second highest priced market globally,” said Pipfruit NZ chairman Ian Palmer.

Australian orchardists lost a century-old battle over New Zealand apple imports after the World Trade Organisation ruled that fears of a transfer of the devastating apple disease fireblight could be controlled by modern phyto-sanitary checks.

Already, one of the first shipments of kiwi apples to Australia has been blocked by the Australian Quarantine and Immigration Service after it found an insect and leaf material in the consignment, sparking further condemnation from Australian growers and a pledge by the Tasmanian government to do all it could to stop apples from countries with fireblight entering the island state.

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The Australian Shadow Agriculture Minister John Cobb said the rejection validated Australian grower concerns about biosecurity risks, while the Australian Greens leader, Christine Milne, said she was “ddeeply concerned about what may have passed undiscovered in other consignments".

New Zealand apple growers were also far from unanimous in supporting the HEA proposal, with 74% backing the move.

“It is of some concern that the exporters have not supported the growers in their desire to see a semi-disciplined development of the Australian market,” said Palmer. “The growers have the majority of investment and risk at stake and clearly the exporters have not considered this the same as the growers.”

Thompson’s lobby argued the HEA had not shown sufficiently strong results with other products to justify its application to Australian apple exports, arguing that New Zealand growers are only producing limited quantities of the apple varieties preferred by Australian consumers and do not require market coordination.

Industry sources have told BusinessDesk they are concerned that indications of indiscipline in the New Zealand industry will play into the hands of Australian regulators and politicians who are still looking for ways around the WTO ruling.

(BusinessDesk)

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