2 Jun 2011

Apple imports will slash Australian growers' incomes - report

9:33 pm on 2 June 2011

Pipfruit New Zealand says a new economic impact report in Australia will not delay sales of New Zealand apples there.

The report, commissioned by the growers group Apple and Pear Australia, says its local growers will lose more than A$140 million a year once New Zealand apples are allowed in.

The market was opened up after the World Trade Organisation overturned a 70-year Australian ban imposed over the disease fire blight.

Pipfruit New Zealand's chief executive, Peter Beaven, says the report highlights that Australian apple growers are more concerned about competition from New Zealand apples, not their disease risk.

Mr Beaven says New Zealand growers and exporters still expect some Australian sales before the end of the year.

The economic impact report says growers' incomes will drop by a third over the next three years as a result of imports from China, New Zealand and the United States.

It says New Zealand apples will have the biggest impact because of their high quality and lower production costs, and are likely to be about 60% cheaper to buy than Australian apples.

The general manager of Fruitgrowers Victoria, John Wilson, says while the report highlights that some apple businesses may struggle, losing up to a third of their incomes, others are likely to flourish with the competition.

"It's not the death knell of the Australian industry by any means," he said. The industry will brand and market its fruit more strongly and continue to fight the importation of New Zealand apples, to keep out the disease fireblight.

Pipfruit New Zealand's Peter Beaven says the opportunity is to increase per capita consumption in Australia, which at present is 6 to 8 kilograms, compared with New Zealand's 15 kilograms.

The economic impact report comes as Biosecurity Australia finalises its requirements for the importation of New Zealand apples.