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Completed project

Developing US market access based on irradiation and methyl bromide (CY16012)

Key research provider: NSW Department of Primary Industries
Publication date: Tuesday, October 2, 2018

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What was it all about?

This project looked at opening market access for Australian cherries into the US, based on using irradiation as an alternative end-point treatment. Its work was a component of the Cherry Industry Market Access Program – a high-priority, combined initiative to increase market access for cherries that is providing management practices and evidential support for market-access negotiations.

Currently the US will accept Australian cherries from Tasmania and the Riverland district of South Australia, which are recognised as free from both Queensland and Mediterranean fruit fly. Upon inspection, all fruit from any region must also be found to be free from light brown apple moth.

Regions that do have these economic pests of concern must undergo phytosanitary treatment such as cold treatment, fumigation with methyl bromide, or methyl bromide plus cold treatment. Yet, these phytosanitary treatment methods are known to compromise fruit quality and can delay the shipment of fruit.

The project team has evaluated the opportunity to negotiate irradiation as a way of improving market access into the US, and concluded that prospects look good.

  • Their initial report suggests that the US would accept Australian cherries treated by irradiation, with a signed bilateral agreement of an irradiation framework equivalency work plan (FEWP) and an operational work plan. This has been achieved for exporting both Australian lychees and mangoes, which at the time of writing had been undertaking three-year irradiation pilot programs.

  • US market research was conducted, with the project team reporting that Australian cherry exporters would “expect their customer to be supermarket or hypermarket retailers… these retailers like to stock fresh cherries because ‘they draw in affluent shoppers”. The team also noted:

    “The largest volumes of fresh sweet cherries exported to the US are from Chile, Canada and Argentina, with Chile accounting for almost 65 per cent of market share, followed by just over 30 per cent from Canada and 4.2 per cent from Argentina. Chile and Argentina are our major competitors for market share in this market. Australian cherries do have market growth opportunity; however, there needs to be a clear difference made between the high-volume Chilean and Argentine fruit.”
  • A literature review of irradiation was conducted, indicating that it is a well-understood and established technology, despite only a small number of countries currently accepting it as a viable alternative phytosanitary treatment method. “Decades of research have determined that phytosanitary treatment of fruit by irradiation, at low doses, does not have any adverse effect on fruit quality or nutrition – in fact, there is some evidence to say that this treatment method may improve shelf life,” the project team reported. “The risk of an outbreak within the importing country is unlikely as the treatment method renders the pests of concern sterile, eliminating the risk of establishing a population within the importing country.”

Findings from the project were provided to the cherry industry, with the research team recommending Cherry Growers Australia and the Australian Government pursue irradiation as an option, should the US be considered a priority market by the industry.

Related levy funds


This project was a strategic levy investment in the Hort Innovation Cherry Fund

Funding statement:
This project has been funded by Hort Innovation

Copyright © Horticulture Innovation Australia Limited 2018. The Final Research Report (in part or as whole) cannot be reproduced, published, communicated or adapted without the prior written consent of Hort Innovation (except as may be permitted under the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth)).