Exports prove fruitful

By Country News

The Australian horticulture sector continues to go from strength to strength, with the value of horticulture exports closing in on Australia’s lamb and dairy sectors.

That’s according to the In Focus: Horticulture report released last week by National Australia Bank.

Analysing data from the Australian Bureau of Agriculture and Resource Economics and Sciences, the report reveals the Australian horticultural sector is worth about $11.4billion, with growth in export value a key feature.

NAB agribusiness economist Phin Ziebell said the growth in horticultural export value was closely linked to benefits flowing from the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement, which came into force in 2015.

‘‘At a value of $3.2 billion, Australian horticulture exports are now comparable to those of lamb and mutton, and dairy, which are valued at $3.6 billion and $3.5 billion respectively,’’ Mr Ziebell said.

‘‘Improved market access and lowered tariffs under ChAFTA have had a large impact, particularly on fruit. While overall the value of Australian fruit exports is 112 per cent greater than a decade ago, not all fruit has benefited from ChAFTA terms.

‘‘Fruits that are less export oriented, like strawberries and bananas, have not seen major price growth in a long period of time,’’ Mr Ziebell said.

The report shows the tree nut sector is booming, revealing a 67 per cent increase in Australian almond trees in the five years to 2017-18.

The value of Australian vegetable production has increased to reach more than $4 billion in 2017-18.

The report shows while domestic production is increasing, so too are vegetable imports.

‘‘Vegetable imports now total over $1 billion per annum, predominantly consisting of frozen and processed food,’’ Mr Ziebell said.

‘‘The trade position underlines the importance of market access for exports, as well as an internationally competitive food processing sector.

‘‘Wholesale market prices for vegetables continue to display seasonal volatility but have not seen the major growth over the past decade that the fruit sector has enjoyed.

‘‘The question of whether prices are sustainable at current levels remains open, particularly given higher input costs like water.’’

The most recent NAB Agribusiness Banker Survey, released in May, indicates that horticulture business conditions are positive and strongly outperforming agriculture more broadly.