Valley peaches, nectarines now flown to Australia

Sorting nectarines for exportSorting nectarines for export
California peaches and nectarines can now be shipped into Australia, thanks to efforts by HMC Farms of Kingsburg and the California Grape & Tree Fruit League.

HMC Farms, a major peach, nectarine and plum grower-shipper, was the first to take advantage of the export program to the “Land Down Under.” Other area growers recently began shipping to Australia including Sun Valley Packing of Reedley, Warmerdam Packing of Hanford and WesPak /Rivermaid Trading Co. of Dinuba and Lodi.

The initial exports of California peaches and nectarines to Australia follow the approval of Australian protocol. California peach and nectarine growers and shippers have been granted access into both Eastern and Western Australia.

HMC Farms will export about 30,000 25-pound boxes of peaches and nectarines to Australia this year. It is a small portion of its annual production of 5 million boxes.

But every bit helps. “It is a nice complement to our sales,” said Harold McClarty, owner of HMC Farms.

McClarty said he plans to increase shipments to Australia next year, but it will still be a small percentage of his total crop. One reason is that peaches and nectarines must be flown to Australia and aircraft can only hold so much.

Also, exporting by air is expensive, boosting the wholesale cost for peaches flown to Australia about $50 a box.

Still, HMC flies peaches and nectarines to Australia on a daily basis. The company would like to fly plums to Australia next year.Nectarines earmarked for exportNectarines earmarked for export

Export to Australia is a first for California's stone fruit producers. It has been a priority project spearheaded by the industry for more than a decade.

HMC Farms kicked off exports to Australia in late July with the first shipments arriving at the Sydney airport July 27. The approval came at just the right time with peaches and nectarines coming into peak season.

But the effort took some persistence.

"For years HMC Farms has worked closely with Marcy Martin of the California Grape & Tree Fruit League, as well as U.S. and Australian government agencies so that the California stone fruit industry would be able to ship their product to a country previously unavailable," McClarty said. "I would like to personally thank these individuals for their team effort. This could not have happened without the long days and evenings they invested and the HMC team's dedication.”

That dedication helped HMC get through obstacles that stood in the path of exports to Australia, he said. Most of the obstacles involved phytosanitary requirements to prevent threat of pests being carried with the fruit, McClarty said.

HMC Farms will ship peaches and nectarines to Australia through mid-September.

Both peaches and nectarines will be available in two of Australia's largest retailers - Coles and Woolworths - through mid-October. Based on the success of other U.S. fruit export programs, Australian importers anticipate positive feedback from their consumers.