Latest Aussie goods in China’s firing line
Australia's much-loved cherries have been lashed as "inferior" in taste and quality by Chinese state-owned media.
The Global Times this week highlighted that Australia's share of cherries in the Chinese market had fallen, as buyers favour the Chilean fruit.
The comments have given rise to concerns that the high-end product could be the next to suffer from trade tensions between Australia and China - which last year caused woes for seafood, red wine and beef industries.
The criticism comes as China's foreign affairs spokesman Zhao Lijian accused Australia of politicising trade.
"The share of Australian cherries in Chinese market … has dropped due to the inferior quality of the product given the reserved seasonality," fruit traders are reported to have told the Global Times.
"The taste and quality of Australian cherries is not as good as it once was.
"Chilean cherries have the largest share in Chinese market, with better quality and lower price."
Australia's cherry exports were worth almost $80m in 2019, when growers sent about 30 per cent, or 1593 tonnes of cherries to China.
Australian National University senior economics lecturer, Yixiao Zhou, said cherries were seen as a luxury food in China.
"If people go to visit their relatives they would bring with them a box of cherries which is regarded as a very good, high-quality gift," she said.
"If you can afford to eat cherries it is regarded as you are living a good quality life."
Despite China slapping trade sanctions on a range of Aussie goods in 2020, Dr Zhou said not all luxury products including cherries were at risk.
"To justify any trade actions on the product you need a stronger reason, not just about quality or price," she said.
"These things should ultimately be determined by the market."
However, she warned that Australian growers should not abandon the Chinese market altogether because it would be hard to re-establish those channels.
"China's market is still growing, its economy is doing relatively well compared with other countries at the moment," Dr Zhou said.
"In the long term it will have a growth trajectory, so do you want to leave the market?"
Cherry Growers Australia was contacted for comment.
Originally published as Latest Aussie good in China's firing line