|WASHINGTON - A new export market for American agriculture worth potentially $10 million annually has opened with the first shipment of California grapes arriving in Australia today, announced U.S. Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick and Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman. This marks the end of a decades long ban of California grapes by Australia."American grapes will be in retail stores in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne tomorrow. When we open markets for our farmers overseas, they win with their world class produce," said Zoellick. "Today's grape shipment demonstrates our ability to find mutually agreeable solutions to problems facing our agricultural communities."
"This is a win-win for California grape growers and Australian consumers, who are the true beneficiaries of this new opportunity," stated Secretary Veneman. "Now Australians can enjoy the California table grapes available during their winter season when Australian domestic grapes are not available."
For ten years, the United States has worked to get Australia to lift its sanitary and phytosanitary ban on imports of California table grapes. Sanitary and phytosanitary refer to plant and animal health regulations.
"The Australian government's decision to allow entry of California grapes is a welcome step toward enhancing our trade relationship with Australia," said Zoellick. "We hope this step is the first of many that Australia and the United States will take together to resolve sanitary and phytosanitary issues based on science, while employing the least trade restrictive measures possible."
Today's shipment consisted of 132 cartons of "Flame Seedless" grapes, which cleared Australian customs and inspection today. The grapes will be on store shelves on Wednesday July17.
Following negotiations between USTR/USDA officials and Australia, the Bush Administration announced that the Australian government would allow the importation of California table grapes on February 14. Under the auspices of the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service, shipments of grapes will be inspected and fumigated prior to being sent to Australia. After the February announcement, USTR and USDA officials monitored the implementation of the new policy and worked with the Australians to address a number of concerns with the implementation. While most of these concerns have been satisfactorily addressed and, consequently, grapes are now arriving in Australia, a few remain. U.S. officials will continue to work with their Australian counterparts to resolve them. Australia has committed to review the mandatory shipping requirements after the first year of the program. The California grape industry estimates exports to Australia could represent a market worth $10 million annually.