Australian Cherries Dubbed As “Inferior” By Chinese Media

australian cherries

The latest rift between China and Australia saw Australian cherries being panned as “inferior” by the Chinese state media in the latest trade row with the country’s biggest export partner.

Consequently, Australia’s share of cherries in the Chinese export market has dramatically dropped as buyers now prefer Chilean fruit, according to Global Times reports.

With the wine, seafood and timber industries being targeted amidst the havoc of trade issues, Australian cherries are Beijing’s latest subject.

Given that the trading relationship between the two countries takes up to 30 per cent of Australia’s market, this latest move has left Australian producers anxious.

Sales manager at Wandin Valley Farms in Victoria, Tim Jones, told media that Australian cherries are “the best in the world”. However, as China comprised 40 per cent of the business’s exports and it was worrying.

According to Mr Jones, “China is probably our main market as an industry for fresh cherries. We’re still able to trade gently, and we’re just trying to keep a lid on things, and try to keep our industry moving in the right direction.”

A fruit trader revealed in Global Times that, “The share of Australian cherries in Chinese market … has dropped due to the inferior quality of the product given the reserved seasonality. The taste and quality of Australian cherries is not as good as it once was.”

The trader then added that Chilean cherries have the largest share in the Chinese market, with better quality and lower price.

As of, 30 per cent of Australian cherries are exported to more than 30 countries in a highly competitive international market. Aside from China, most exports are sent to Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan.

Cattle producers celebrate the end of 2020 with record live export prices and rain

Cattle producers in the Top End of the Northern Territory are ending 2020 on a high with the wet season delivering above-average rainfall in December and cattle prices sitting at record levels.

Gary Riggs at Lakefield Station near Mataranka has received around 400 millimetres this month and is still smiling after selling cattle just prior to Christmas.

“We got $4 a kilo for steers and $3.80 a kilogram for heifers, which is the highest price we’ve ever got,” he told ABC Rural.

“We got six decks of cattle out just before Christmas. I then ducked into town to finish the Christmas shopping and when I got home it was pouring rain.

“We got 74mm in about an hour. There was water everywhere so we got those cattle out just in time.”

Mr Riggs said a lot of Top End cattle had been exported out of Darwin this month, and the money on offer was a real boost to the industry.

“These prices are something we’ve never had before, but this year has just been phenomenal with cattle prices. It’s been pretty high all year,” he said.

“It means a lot. You’ve got money there to work on what you want to do, to invest, or to have a break.

“It just takes the pressure off from a lot of years where we did it tough.”

Cattle gather as a storm approaches Hayfield Station in the Northern Territory.(Supplied)

He said 2021 was shaping up well, but felt it was important the live export price did not get too high for crucial overseas markets like Indonesia,” he said.

“I do wonder [about these record prices] and what it means at the other end because those end-consumers will need to pay a lot more for their meat.

“I hope we don’t shoot ourselves in the foot in the long-run.

Record December rain

Nearby at Gorrie Station, the Harding family are celebrating their wettest December on record.

a storm on the horizon with a ute in the foreground.
A storm approaches Gorrie Station.(supplied: Kate Harding)

“It’s been outstanding, we’ve ended up with 480mm for the month,” Mike Harding said.

“The waterholes are all replenished and hopefully the water table as well. It’s going to replenish a lot of what we’ve been missing over the last few seasons.”

Weather map. December rain
It’s been a wetter than average December for most parts of the Northern Territory.(Supplied: Bureau of Meteorology)

Mr Harding said after a poor wet season last year, cattle producers were starting to get nervous about the much-hyped La Nina forecast.

“We were starting to wonder and worry it wasn’t coming, but here it is, and we’re all very grateful,” he said.

Territory-wide it has been an extremely wet month for a lot of cattle stations.

Daly Waters received more than triple its December average and a lot of stations in Central Australia got rain thanks to two tropical lows that swept in from the Kimberley.

Mt Denison Station, 300 kilometres north-west of Alice Springs, recorded its wettest day on record when it posted 151mm last week.

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Crew member on cattle export ship tests positive to coronavirus in Darwin

A 25-year-old man from a recently docked international cattle export ship has tested positive for coronavirus in the Northern Territory.

Health authorities say the Diamantina livestock carrier arrived in Darwin’s East Arm Wharf from Indonesia on Sunday night.

The man was tested for coronavirus upon arrival in the city and returned a positive result.

He has been taken to the Royal Darwin Hospital, where he remains in isolation.

The majority of the crew have gone into supervised quarantine in Howard Springs, where they will remain for two weeks in an area separate to any interstate arrivals required to quarantine.

Health authorities say none of them left the vessel beforehand and strict protocols are in place for any ships arriving in the Northern Territory.

A smaller crew will remain on board the ship in accordance with international maritime laws and those people will self-isolate while they undergo testing.

The new case takes the number of coronavirus cases diagnosed in the Northern Territory to 75, including 40 cases among repatriated Australians.

Eleven of those cases remain active.

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Japan posts record run of export declines on soft U.S., China demand

December 16, 2020

By Daniel Leussink

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan’s exports fell in November, dashing expectations for an end to the two-year run of declines, largely due to weaker U.S.- and China-bound shipments and suggesting a slower pace of recovery for the world’s third-largest economy.

The trade data is likely to be of some concern for policymakers counting on solid external demand to boost factory output and broader corporate activity to revive the economy.

Ministry of Finance (MOF) data out on Wednesday showed exports fell 4.2% in November from a year earlier, defying the economists’ median estimate of a 0.5% increase in a Reuters poll. It was the 24th straight month of decline, the longest stretch on record, and follows a 0.2% drop in the previous month.

“Overall exports won’t return to pre-virus levels until the middle of next year,” said Tom Learmouth, Japan economist at Capital Economics.

By destination, shipments to the United States contracted for the first time in three months, losing 2.5%, as weak demand for aircraft equipment helped offset higher car exports.

Exports to China, Japan’s largest trading partner, rose at the slowest pace in five months, growing 3.8%, driven by communication devices.

Shipments to Asia as a whole fell back into contraction for the first time in two months, losing 4.3%, while those to the European Union dropped 2.6% in November.

Imports shed 11.1% in November compared with the same month a year earlier, versus the median estimate for a 10.5% decrease, bringing a trade surplus of 366.8 billion yen ($3.54 billion), versus the median estimate for a 529.8 billion yen surplus.

Japan’s cabinet on Tuesday approved a third supplementary budget to fund a fresh $708 billion stimulus package, which includes about 40 trillion yen in direct fiscal spending and focuses on investment in new growth areas such as green and digital innovation.

Data last week confirmed the economy rebounded sharply in the third quarter from its biggest postwar slump in April-June.

($1 = 103.6300 yen)

(Reporting by Daniel Leussink; Editing by Sam Holmes)

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China export ban forces timber industry to look to local market to save jobs

The timber industry is hoping new opportunities in Australian manufacturing might save jobs amid ongoing trade troubles with China.

China has blocked timber imports from Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia and Queensland in recent months, citing biosecurity concerns.

Tasmanian Forest Products Association chair Bryan Hayes said about 100 direct jobs and hundreds of indirect jobs in his state could be impacted.

“It’s a tricky situation because there aren’t immediately available alternatives,” he said.

Mr Hayes said they were now working with the Government to investigate “alternative domestic markets”.

“Possibly it may even open up opportunities in the medium to long-term for more investment in downstream processing and more manufacturing here in Australia,” he said.

Bryan Hayes in front of a woodchip pile at the Hampshire mill in Tasmania’s north.(ABC News: Laura Beavis)

New opportunities needed ASAP

China is a massive export market for the forestry industry, and when exactly trade will return to normal remains to be seen.

South Australian Forest Products Association chief executive Nathan Paine said exports “do have a place in the industry”, however, they needed to investigate onshore capabilities.

“We’re also working very closely with the State Government around how we can unlock and unleash new domestic manufacturing opportunities as quickly as possible to ensure that we can really drive new domestic demand for this product,” he said.

A man wearing glasses and a suit stands in front of pine trees.
Nathan Paine wants governments to introduce wood-first policies into their procurement policies.(Supplied: Nathan Paine)

Mr Paine said there were several projects noted for South Australia’s Green Triangle forestry region which would “boost” domestic opportunities including Timberlink, Australia’s recently announced CLT and GLT plant at Tarpeena.

“What we also need to do is look at how we can get governments to introduce wood-first policies into their procurement policies,” he said.

“So that when they’re going out to the market for new public buildings … those public buildings are built using wood.”

Green Triangle Forest Industries Hub chair Ian McDonnell said there needed to be a focus on long-term solutions and domestic processing.

He said the cross-border industrial region had already been impacted when China moved against Victorian timber last month.

“The proximity to the Port of Portland, within 100 kilometres of our plantations, is where all our wood goes. There’s none that goes out of Port Adelaide,” he said.

Mr McDonald said forest growers were still able to grow their products in the meantime.

“The biggest impact has been on the harvest and haul sector where there are a lot of companies that have had to slow right down,” he said.

“And obviously that has an impact on their workforce and on their income.”

Logging contractor on alert

The trade tensions are front of mind for logging contractor Kevin Muskett, whose company BR and KF Muskett and Sons harvests and hauls timber across southern Tasmania.

“It’s certainly a concern, that’s for sure,” he said.

Mr Muskett said they were already “looking at other alternatives” given the uncertainty around exports to China.

“It’s obviously a political issue that needs to be sorted out. We [Australia] rely on China quite a bit for taking all sorts of exports from us,” he said.

“We’ll just see what happens and hopefully the relationship can sort itself out over the next little while.”

A machine stacks logs.
Forest contractors play a vital part in the supply chain.(ABC Northern Tasmania: Fred Hooper)

Fears of long-term reputational damage

Timber is just one of an array of agricultural products caught up in the trade tensions this year.

Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry international trade adviser Sally Chandler said producers might be thinking about alternative markets, however, switching over presented its own challenges.

“You can’t just pivot to something else and another market. A different country might require a different specification, for a start,” she said.

Mrs Chandler said one of her biggest concerns was if Australia continued to get “bad press” in China it would degrade the reputation of our produce in the country.

“But people can only do that for so long.”

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Australian Grape and Wine calls for a fast pivot to other markets as China export evaporates

The head of Australia’s peak wine body says export wine producers are in “a world of pain” and must work to become less reliant on China.

After another week of blows to the China-Australia relationship, Trade Minister Simon Birmingham and Agriculture Minister David Littleproud met industry leaders today to discuss the nation’s trading future.

The chief executive of Australian Grape and Wine, Tony Battaglene, said the nation’s agricultural exporters need to diversify trade relationships to avoid producers being left abandoned.

He said there was “no good news” for local wine grape growers, regardless of their personal dealings with China.

Tom Guthrie, who owns small-scale winery Grampians Estate near Ararat in Western Victoria, said the fallout from China’s up to 200 per cent tariffs would hit every Aussie winemaker, big and small.

“That wine that hasn’t got a home in China, a lot of that will be pushed onto the domestic market,” he said.

“The laws of supply and demand mean it’s going to push prices down and add a lot more competition to the domestic market, an area small wineries like us rely on.”

Two adults are sitting in front of a winery patting two dogs
Sarah and Tom Guthrie at Grampians Estate in Victoria.(Supplied: Visit Victoria)

He said it would push some small wineries to the wall.

“Unless this is resolved fairly soon, and I’m rather pessimistic about that, there’s going to be some pretty sad stories out there,” Mr Guthrie said.

“We’re having a fantastic season here in Victoria and we’re looking at a really good harvest, which is fantastic considering last year’s poor harvest.

“It’s a dark cloud over what was going to be a period to look forward to now that COVID’s gone.”

Chinese New Year losses

The timing is made worse as Chinese New Year approaches.

A man and woman are sitting down shaking hands
Robert Ellis of Hanging Rock Winery discussing wine exports in China.(Supplied)

Ruth Ellis from Hanging Rock Winery in the Macedon Ranges in Victoria has spent two decades building strong export partnerships in China.

She said her buyers are nervous in the lead up to the festivities.

“So now is the time they’d take to stock up their goods for that crucial buying time.”

Xi Jinping stands in front of nine large Chinese flags as he toasts a glass of red wine
The Chinese Government has placed tariffs on all Australian wine imports, striking a blow to the $1.2 billion-a-year industry.(AP: Nicolas Asfouri, file photo)

She said 50 per cent of her business is based around the Chinese market and many of them are now uncertain of their next move.

“They are just crying out, trying to work out when this is all going to end … because this is going to affect their businesses really badly,” Ms Ellis said.

“Twenty years ago they were just after cheap, sweet wine, but now they’re highly educated and they’re looking for things like high end pinot and shiraz.

“To lose that market for us is crushing.”

Fast move away from China

Mr Battaglene said agricultural exporters want a commitment from the Government to diversify Australia’s international trade long-term, and for minsters to begin the international negotiation process immediately.

“Not just market development and promotion, but looking at some of those market access issues that aren’t terribly sexy to the general public but make the world of difference,” he said.

“For example, our biggest potential market is North America. That requires some targeted investment in marketing and looking at how we get that premium product into the market.”

Wine barrels in a cellar
Tom Guthrie says excess wine in Australia due to China’s tariffs will “flood the local market”.(AP: Francois Mori)

Mr Battaglene said he has been pushing the importance of expanding into other countries for many years, such as India and Africa, and re-investing in Asian markets that lost Australian imports to the Chinese market.

“We see great potential in these markets, but they require a lot of on-the-ground cooperation, ministerial involvement, and trying to get down some of those technical barriers,” he said.

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Aussie wine the latest casualty in trade war with China.

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Waratahs must reverse Australian rugby’s export mindset

And you worry for them because in recruiting New Zealand locks Jack Whetton and Sam Caird the Waratahs are hardly sending the signal that NSW will become a powerhouse again.

This is not a hit job on the Kiwis. As will be made clear below, both have their qualities but where Jacques Potgieter showed that foreign acquisitions could transform a side there have been others whose influence was far milder.

Jack Whetton is one of two Kiwi locks crossing the Tasman to join the Waratahs next season.

Jack Whetton is one of two Kiwi locks crossing the Tasman to join the Waratahs next season.Credit:AP

Whetton, 28, has had his best year in New Zealand rugby. He played plenty of minutes for the Highlanders this year and grew with every outing, taking that form into the Mitre 10 Cup for Auckland before a nasty fall at lineout time interrupted his season. At the Highlanders,
they talked about his desire to improve and dedication to the set-piece. He’s not the tallest
lock in the world at 196cm but his hard work around the lineout saw him develop into a reliable option.

When the Highlanders’ No.1 caller, Josh Dickson, broke a leg during Super Rugby Aotearoa this year, Whetton came into the side and took over that responsibility. However, his greatest asset at set-piece time is probably the grunt he offers to the scrum. He’s a powerful man and a natural ‘tighthead’ lock, so Harry Johnson-Holmes will benefit from the horsepower Whetton generates.

The Highlanders used to pick Whetton specifically for Crusaders games to counter the scrum threat Scott Robertson’s side would bring.

Despite all of those qualities, however, he might have still been seen as fourth choice lock at the Highlanders next year, behind Dickson, Pari Pari Parkinson and Manaaki Selby-Rickit.

Sam Caird is in many ways the more exciting acquisition.

Sam Caird is in many ways the more exciting acquisition.Credit:Getty

Is Whetton an upgrade on the departed Tom Staniforth? It’s debatable.

Caird, 23, is in many ways the more exciting signing. At 202cm, he has a big, athletic frame and a decent engine to power it around the paddock.

In the Mitre 10 Cup semi-final against Otago last week, Caird – who played his provincial rugby for Northland this year – had enough left in the tank inside the last 10 minutes to make a line break, charge 40 metres and set up a try for his halfback with an inside pass.

His background in rowing should ensure that fitness is not an issue, and given the lack of quality big men in New Zealand his departure to the Waratahs raised some eyebrows.


Nonetheless, there is a roughness to his work that will require significant polishing before he can become a quality Super Rugby player. During the Mitre 10 Cup, he has mixed moments of physicality with a dropped pass here, and a cheap penalty there. There is a reason why he was on the fringes at both the Chiefs and Blues without really cracking either side.

The tricky thing for the Waratahs is that the second row is one position in Australia where teams can expect to be exposed if they don’t get it right.

Despite European sides’ almost endless appetite for Australian tall timber, the Reds (Angus Blyth and Lukhan Salakaia-Loto), the Brumbies (Cadeyrn Neville, Nick Frost and Darcy Swain) and to a lesser extent the Rebels (Trevor Hosea and Esei Haangana) will all manage to put together good combinations in 2021.

But perhaps this is where the Waratahs’ fundamental issue lies. Matt Philip, Izack Rodda, Will Skelton, Luke Holmes, Rory Arnold, Rob Simmons and Harry Hockings are all overseas, or heading that way.

The Australian production line has been diverted to overseas markets, and it can’t be reversed soon enough.

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Kimberley fracking project ‘unlikely’ under WA onshore gas export ban

A Kimberley oil and gas fracking project that has gained the support of traditional owners after more than a year of negotiations is unlikely to go ahead under a WA gas export ban, the proponent says.

Karajarri native title holders in the West Kimberley signed an Indigenous Land Use Agreement with Theia Energy just two weeks after the WA Government announced an onshore gas export ban in August.

The revised WA domestic gas policy prevents gas extracted from land-based reserves from being sold outside of Western Australia.

Theia Energy’s agreement with Karajarri allows for drilling and fracking a well in the Great Sandy Desert as part of a project that proponents hope will become a major oil and gas producer.

Karajarri Traditional Lands Association chief executive Martin Bin Rashid said at the time that the agreement offered economic benefits while ensuring the protection of the environment.

“We’ve had extensive consultation on environmental, cultural, social and economic impacts on our country,” Mr Bin Rashid said.

But Theia Energy’s chief operating officer Jop van Hattum said the Government policy to ban onshore gas exports to eastern states or overseas threatened the viability of the project.

“We haven’t had much detail on what that policy entails; there was no consultation with industry on that policy.”

The Theia-1 exploration well in the Great Sandy Desert, drilled in 2015.(Supplied: WA Department of Mines and Petroleum)

Waitsia exempted from ban

The ban on exports of gas produced from WA’s onshore resources was announced with one exemption to a project north of Perth associated with WA’s biggest media proprietor.

Waitsia is owned by Japanese conglomerate Mitsui as well as Beach Energy, an ASX-listed company whose majority shareholder is Kerry Stokes’s Seven Group Holdings.

Under the exemption, its operators will be allowed to process gas from the Waitsia field through the North West Shelf for export to liquified natural gas (LNG) markets.

Premier Mark McGowan defended the exemption at the time on the grounds Waitsia was a “shovel-ready” project that would deliver hundreds of jobs.

The Government declined to be interviewed or answer specific questions on whether Theia Energy could also be exempt from the export ban.

But a statement provided to the ABC did not entirely rule out further exemptions.

“The State Government will not agree to the export of gas via the WA pipeline network other than in exceptional circumstances,” the statement read in part.

Theia Energy hopes that its Great Sandy Desert Project will develop a network of oil and gas wells connected by pipelines to new and existing ports in north-west Australia.

Documents obtained from the company’s website, which have since been removed, show a conceptual plan based around their desert location 150 kilometres south-east of Broome.

A conceptual development graphic of the Great Sandy Desert Project
Theia Energy’s plans for the Great Sandy Desert oil and gas fracking project shows new pipelines, roads and ports.(Supplied: Theia Energy)

‘Policy jeopardises jobs’

The American-owned oil and gas company that in August this year made the first application to frack gas wells in Western Australia since a moratorium on fracking was lifted, has also criticised the onshore gas export ban.

Bennett Resources, a subsidiary of Texas-based Black Mountain, submitted a referral to WA’s Environmental Protection Authority to assess plans to drill and frack six wells on its newly acquired acreage on Noonkanbah Station, near Fitzroy Crossing.

The company has already clashed with the State Government over what it calls a “moratorium by stealth” on fracking in Western Australia.

In November 2018, the Government lifted its moratorium on fracturing, but subsequently said no projects would get off the ground until a code of practice and traditional owner and private landowner consent requirements had been agreed upon.

Black Mountain chief operating officer Ashley Zumwalt-Forbes said banning the export of gas from their project in the Kimberley’s Canning Basin would cut them off from their most viable market.

“The Canning Basin is nearer the east coast than the existing WA gas market and practically would be unlikely to ever compete with imported LNG for the Perth market,” Ms Zumwalt-Forbes said in a statement.

Building the gas pipeline in Queensland
Black Mountain’s Ashley Zumwalt-Forbes says banning export of gas could cut them off from their most viable market.(Supplied: Australian Pipeline Industry Association)

Ms Zumwalt-Forbes has previously said that gas from the Kimberley could provide security of supply to the east coast via the trans-Australia pipeline, proposed as part of a gas-led recovery from COVID-19 economic impacts.

Bennett Resources’ fracking proposal is based on an agreement with the Yungngora and Warlangurru traditional owners, and identified eastern states manufacturing as their preferred target market.

The chairwoman for the community’s Yungngora Association, Jayna Skinner, had previously told the ABC that the community “wants to see economic development opportunities and employment for its people”.

“We are very fortunate to have the strong support of the two native title groups that live on the land that we operate in the Canning Basin,” Ms Zumwalt-Forbes said.

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Lukas Orda’s family pleads with Australian Government to lead renewed search for live export ship survivors

The family of Australian veterinarian Lukas Orda, who is missing at sea after a live export ship sunk near Japan, has pleaded for the Federal Government to lead a renewed search.

The Japan Coast Guard on Wednesday called off its full-time search for survivors from The Gulf Livestock 1, more than a week after it put out a distress call during a powerful typhoon in the East China Sea.

Dr Orda, 25, is one of two Australians among the 40 missing sailors who were on board the ship.

His father Ulrich, the head doctor at the Mount Isa hospital emergency department, and mother Sabine, have started an online petition calling for the Australian Government to enlist the help of other countries in a dedicated search.

Their petition says the Orda family is “greatly appreciative of the work and dedication of the Japan Coast Guard” but “devastated” to hear the full-time search was stopped.

Coast Guard officials, who were unable to locate any survivors since rescuing a Filipino sailor last Friday, have told the ABC they would continue to search for survivors as part of regular patrols.

The family says they are concerned that people “could be still floating in the ocean awaiting rescue” from one of the ship’s four life rafts and a lifeboat.

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Japanese rescue crew finds a survivor from the missing Gulf Livestock 1.

They say they are “sure with some discussion we could enlist other nations including our own to continue the search after the Japanese Government has made such a tremendous effort to find our loved ones”.

“We have set the bar high previously with our own searches for the missing Malaysian flight MH370 along with the successful rescue of other seafarers.

The family maintains there is a “strong possibility that at least some of the crew members including Lukas … made it into a missing lifeboat or raft”.

The Gulf Livestock 1, a large ship on the ocean.
The Gulf Livestock 1 was hit by a large wave.(Supplied:

They say this is bolstered by information from the surviving Filipino sailor, relayed to them by Australia’s Consular Emergency Centre on September 7.

“When the engine of the ship failed in the storm the captain called all crew on the bridge in life vests to enter the lifeboats,” the petition says.

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