Chinese buyers are knocking on Gunnedah’s export doors, but we’re in danger of letting a ripe opportunity turn sour, according to local orange grower Robert Hoddle.
“If we want to see economic development in this town, it’s not going to be mining, but it could be agriculture,” Mr Hoddle said.
“There is a great opportunity here for the next 10 years but we won’t grab it without the infrastructure.”
Last week Mr Hoddle’s Gunnible Pastoral Company hosted three visitors from China to discuss an on-going export trial program.
Talks proved fruitful with plans to double last year’s 100-tonne orange export.
But he required government backing for infrastructure projects like cold storage, container loading and packing facilities, to take full advantage of the Australian fresh produce market in China.
“This is what’s holding us back and this is what I will be putting to government,” he said.
Currently Gunnible oranges are packaged in Mildura before being shipped to China. It’s a costly but unavoidable expense without access to local facilities.
Other considerations discussed during the visit were time of fruit in consignment and different types of packing to suit the domestic Chinese market.
Mr Hoddle said there was an immediate demand for citrus and red table grapes in China but buyers were cautious.
“It’s early days and they’re taking it one step at a time,” he said. “But they’re optimistic about the market and looking to a future in Gunnedah.”
On Wednesday the company director was travelling to Tamworth for an export seminar where such issues would be big talking points.
Mr Hoddle first hosted a Chinese delegation in May and was encouraged by the potential to develop a long-term trade relationship with the international customer.
The orange export followed recent success by another locally-based Chinese trade partner, Lively Linseed. The Mullaley grain grower last month won the Excellence in Export regional business award.