Japan has granted market access for Australian pumpkins and melons, paving the way for Aussie pumpkins to be exported to Japan immediately.
The decision follows recent bi-lateral discussions between the two countries and the culmination of the recent free trade agreement that eliminates tariffs on Australian pumpkins exported to Japan.
Australia's trade agreement with Japan has already eliminated tariffs on pumpkins and watermelons, with other melon tariffs due to disappear in 2019.
Local growers have been shut out of Japan until now, because the countries had not agreed on biosecurity rules for export.
“This is fantastic news for export-ready pumpkin growers throughout Australia who are now in a much stronger position to expand their growing operations to meet increasing demand in Japan for high quality vegetable produce,” said AUSVEG National Manager – Export Development, Michael Coote.
“Japan is one of Australia’s largest export markets for horticultural produce, with total vegetable exports worth A$44 million in 2015-16, up five per cent on the previous year. It is a potentially lucrative export market for Australian pumpkin growers as it imports more than 100,000 tonnes of pumpkins from around the world each year.”
Huge growth opportunity
Mr Coote said the agreement between Australia and Japan presents a huge growth opportunity for Australian vegetable growers.
AUSVEG is the leading horticultural body representing more than 9,000 Australian vegetable and potato growers, and is committed to its activities in the field of export development and opening new markets for Australian growers.
“AUSVEG organised a successful trade mission to Japan earlier this year, where Australian vegetable growers were able to display their high quality produce to key buyers and develop trade relationships. A number of these buyers have also travelled to Australia to see our vegetable growing operations in action,” said Mr Coote.
“The challenge now is for Australian growers to investigate the pumpkin varieties that are popular in Japan, so that they can grow the varieties that are in high demand with Japanese consumers and maximise their ability to sell their produce into this market.”
Shift in growing practices
Exporting to Japan will also require a shift in growing practices for Australia's watermelon growers.
Supplying the new market is not as simple as exporting fruit grown for the Australian domestic sector.
Southern Queensland watermelon grower Terry O'Leary told ABC Rural it would take an exceptional product to crack the Japanese market, where watermelons sell for a premium price.
"Food is a much more appreciated product over there, they do strive for perfection and they're willing to pay for it," Mr O'Leary said.
Mr Leary said Australian growers would need to think carefully about the variety they chose to supply.
Logistics might be a challenge
"As for the actual quality of the fruit, I'm confident that Australian growers would be able to pick it up and grow the quality fairly easily, so it would just be the logistics that might be the challenge," he said.
The new export market could offer a niche opportunity for smaller growers, who struggle to compete in the Australian domestic market.
"Somebody who might be an exceptional smaller grower may have a much better chance of focusing on the one variety or a couple different varieties especially for export, doing that exceptionally well and reaping the returns from it," Mr Leary said.
Having tried his hand at growing cube-shaped melons, Mr O'Leary said he would consider growing for the Japanese market.
"I have done it with the Asian varieties but, to be honest, I prefer the taste of our domestic melons over (the Asian) style."