Kingsburg-based HMC Farms shipped the first California stone fruit in a load arriving July 27 at the Sydney airport, soon after access protocols for both Eastern and Western Australia were approved. It came with about six weeks left in the deal.
“It’s been a long decade of waiting for access to this market,” said Marcy Martin, director of trade for the Fresno-based league. “Stone fruit was a priority in the trade agreement between the U.S. and Australia before 2004.”
Reedley, Calif.-based Sun Valley Packing was expected to ship its first load about a week later. A preclearance program was due to start Aug. 5 with the arrival of the first Australian inspector in California.
“We’re excited to be able to implement this program on behalf of the industry,” Martin said July 31. “It’s a great reward. We’ll have six weeks of a program so I think we’ll close the season on the upside. You don’t always close on the upside.”
“We ended up being the vehicle by which they came and tested different systems,” HMC Farms owner Harold McClarty said. “It took about three years. Every year we thought, ‘We’ll get it done.’ Having two governments work together, the timing is never as quick as we work in the produce industry. But they did work together and got it done.”
“Everyone views this as opening another country that has tremendous potential for our product,” said McClarty, who credited the league’s work in reaching the agreement.
Peaches and nectarines will be available in two of Australia’s largest retailers — Coles and Woolworths — through mid-October.