Cherry growers reject China’s whinge

Cherry growers have hit back at Chinese media after it cast shade on the beloved Aussie product. The industry says customers can’t get enough.

Australian cherry growers have hit back at China’s claims their fruit is inferior to other countries, as the sector hopes to avoid being the next target in Beijing’s trade war.

It follows a report in Chinese state-owned media that the taste and quality of Australian cherries had dropped, prompting buyers to turn to other countries’ products.

Cherry Growers Australia president Tom Eastlake rejected the claim, saying: “We are positioned as the premium cherry product in the world.

“Seventy-two hours from hanging on a tree, it is in the market.”

Growers did not send fruit to international markets when the quality had been affected, such as during extreme weather events, because they did not want to damage the industry’s reputation, Mr Eastlake said.

He also said the sector had received no complaints from Chinese customers.

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The Global Times reported fruit traders had claimed Australia’s share of cherries in the market had dropped due to “inferior quality”.

But Mr Eastlake said the fall in exports to China during 2020 was due to the grounding of planes during the pandemic.

His first thought after the Global Times report was “this doesn’t sound good”. But buyers told him they actually needed more fruit.

“The most reassuring thing for me is when you ring your key people in China and say is everything OK?

“And they say, ‘Well look, Mr Tom, if you could send us more that would be wonderful.’

“We don’t have a plan B for China. Not because we don’t have any other options, we’ve got plenty.

“We want to keep working with them, which we will, to see our product get there.”

While other luxury products have fallen victim to worsening trade tensions between the two countries, Aussie growers believe they will continue to thrive in the Chinese market because of their decade-long connection with buyers.

“Trade tension or diplomatic relations is not one of our principal concerns because we are an industry that is built on relationships,” Mr Eastlake said.

“The federal government should, and does, maintain their relationship with China and we, as an industry, do the same.

“Everything has been clearing, everything has been going in and everyone has been really happy.”

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