Horticulture

Citrus warning

By Country News

Citrus growers have put the Federal Government on notice to maintain a healthy trade relationship with China as the industry announces record seasons.

Citrus Australia chief executive Nathan Hancock last week said the industry was booming after gaining access to China’s massive market.

‘‘In 2013 we were close to zero export tonnes to China,’’ Mr Hancock said.

‘‘In 2017, we exceeded 70000 tonnes to China.’’

The industry body in January called for more growers to register for exports to China, noting 2017 had been a record year and the ‘‘upward trajectory’’ was expected to continue.

‘‘By the end of September, exports of citrus totalled 220754 tonnes to a value of $377million,’’ Citrus Australia said.

‘‘The result was 18 per cent above last year for the same period by volume and 31 per cent higher by value.’’

But it didn’t come easy — China’s regulations threw up ‘‘enormous administrative challenges’’ which required investment in industry delegations and pest control to overcome.

Citrus Australia’s website has numerous publications and pages indicating it’s working hard to bolster relations with its most lucrative partner.

Mr Hancock reportedly warned the government not to jeopardise the hard work with bad diplomacy.

‘‘Only a few years ago we signed a free trade agreement with China and now we find ourselves in the situation where China is threatening to stop trade with us and teach us a lesson through trade,’’ he said.

His warning comes as relations between the two countries cool in part over a Federal Government bill which aims to limit foreign influence in Australia, including political donations. Beijing saw the move as ‘‘anti-China’’.

The government downplayed fears last week Australian wine giant Treasury Wines was being delayed as it attempted to export to China.