Australia: OzGroup aims for first India-bound blueberry exports in 2017
September 5, 2017

Like most of the Australian blueberry industry, OzGroup Co-op has taken a cautious approach to the opening of the Indian market that was granted in October, 2015, but now the first exports may be in sight. 

From Mumbai, the co-operative’s CEO Kamaldeep Singh Clair told Fresh Fruit Portal Australian blueberries were on the menu at two recent events in Chennai and Delhi, as part of Australia Business Week in India (ABWI).

“The first shipment that came for the Australian Business Week went really well with the help of Austrade – the Australian Government found us someone here on the ground who could do all the clearances,” Singh Clair said.

“Unfortunately the event in Mumbai was cancelled due to the weather situation here so we couldn’t show the people here the product,” he said, adding after the flood warning was lifted the delegation still visited the city to meet with potential buyers and visit retail stores.

One of Singh Clair’s goals during the visit, apart from researching market and potential demand, was to ascertain the state of the Indian market cold chain for an Australian blueberry import deal.

“That’s the biggest take-home. We have that quality and we will actually have far better than the expectations – there’s no issue about that – but if the cold chain’s broken we may not be able to supply that quality.

“We have met with a couple of potential buyers and they’ve showed that they have those cold chain management processes because they are dealing with exotic fruits from other countries. We are hoping that will help us to bring the Australian blueberries to India.

“I’m hoping that we will have some shipments this year also.”

He said the deal would be via air freight, but the likely routes were still unclear.

“Mostly we’ll be shipping from Sydney…apart from Sydney-Delhi there is no direct flight to India, so we will most probably be doing an indirect shipment,” he said.

“That will depend on the business that we form relationships, where they would like to land it.

He said the company had already established export arrangements with Hong Kong, Singapore and the Middle East, and was looking to broaden its horizons.

“The major markets where we’d like to export and people are looking for product are China and Japan, and we do not have access to those markets.

“If we can eliminate that bridge and get a protocol set up for China that would be a boost for the blueberry industry, because in Australia the blueberry industry has grown quite a bit in the last few years and we are looking at over 13,000 [metric] tons (MT) this year.

“To sustain the industry exports to these particular markets China and Japan would be critical and crucial, and we need to work on the protocols so we can export to these countries.”

He said the OzGroup blueberry harvest started in July, and until now volumes have been up substantially on previous years.

“For the previous year there was optimum weather in the main season so we didn’t have any problem, but this year in the Coffs Harbour region it’s been dry – we haven’t had rain for almost 12 weeks now. 

“We’ve had good quality and sizes of fruit, and the production is up. It could be up 25% in general.”

Singh Clair and other Australian blueberry industry players will be at Asia Fruit Logistica in Hong Kong this week. 

Photo: (L-R) OzGroup Co-op CEO Kamaldeep Singh Clair, Australian Assistant Minister to the Deputy Prime Minister, Luke Hartsuyker, and Driscoll’s Australia general manager (marketing) Jon Gleeson.

Fresh Fruit Portal