15 December 2022

India trade deal means fresh prospects for Australian fruit exporters

Australia’s new trade agreement with India, in force from 29 December 2022, looks set to increase export volumes for citrus exporter, Nutrano.

The company already exports multiple containers per year of counter-seasonal mandarins to India. With lower tariffs, the company is looking at bigger shipments and a whole new distribution strategy, according to Mathew Roberts, Export Manager for Nutrano.

‘The new trade agreement with India will certainly make a difference,’ he says. ‘Tariff reductions mean we should be able to sell our citrus at more affordable prices. This will allow us to move more volume into market.’

One of Australia’s top fruit exporters

Nutrano is one of Australia’s top fruit exporters. The company is a combined grower, packer and exporter. It owns around 2,000 hectares of fruit farms in Sunraysia, Victoria and Gin Gin in Queensland.

The company’s oranges, grapefruit, mandarins and mangoes are enjoyed around the world. Nutrano exports counter-seasonal fruit to 20 countries in Asia, North America, the Middle East and Europe.

Nutrano is always looking for new markets and one country with fast-growing demand for high-quality fruit is India.

Premium fruit and Indian consumers

The fruit specialist began exporting mandarins to India several years ago. Roberts says his company’s initial focus was on value rather than volume.

‘Our fruit is very well received in India,’ he says. ‘Indian consumers look for Australian fruit because we have a reputation for clean, green produce. Our Australian fruit does well in India because the colour is good and sugar levels are high.’

Roberts says that food traceability matters in India. GAP and SEDEC certification give quality Australian fruit a competitive edge.

‘Clean and green really does resonate in India,’ he explains. ‘Consumers know our farming standards are high and we don’t use unsafe chemicals. Indian markets will sustain higher prices if consumers can perceive higher value.’

Lower tariffs mean higher volumes

Roberts expects the new Australia-India Economic and Cooperation Trade Agreement (AI-ECTA) will broaden the market for high-value citrus.

The current 50% tariff on imported citrus will halve to 25% for a huge volume of imports. Roberts says the applicable annual quota is for 13,700 tonnes of imported oranges and mandarins. This is the equivalent of 590 containers.

‘Previously, it was quite hard to get a return on crates,’ he says. ‘However, this is a big tariff reduction, and it should have quite an impact in terms of volume.

‘With tariffs coming down it’s a good time for us to focus on India. With lower prices, we think we can develop the market.’

Austrade’s India advisers in action

Roberts’ enthusiasm for India is based on a recent visit. In September 2022, he joined an Austrade business mission to India that visited three cities and involved multiple networking events.

‘I wanted to see how things run in India,’ he says. ‘Austrade’s Kolkata-based agri-adviser was great – he got us to every meeting in India on time. He introduced us to all the right people.

‘Austrade has a really strong team in India, and I can’t speak highly enough of them. They have given us a lot of confidence. As a result of the trip, I have been in contact with people I met there. We will look to pursue opportunities further once the 2023 export seasons starts in April.

India visit triggers new distribution ideas

One revelation was the possibility of selling into road-side stalls. These stalls are a ubiquitous feature of retail in India. Until now, Nutrano had only sold into established retail organisations.

‘Austrade advisers introduced me to a broad range of citrus importers,’ he says. ‘They really opened my eyes to the possibilities in India. For example, some are now using citrus just for juicing. The network events gave me a good sense of how the fruit market works in India.’

‘Before the visit we had not thought of building an export business around roadside stalls,’ he adds. ‘The trip opened our eyes to the sheer volumes involved. Quality fruit is well-received in roadside stalls: once you realise that, the potential is vast.

‘This was an interesting lesson. As Australian exporters, we tend to look for high-end retailers because they give us a high return. But to me, India didn’t present that way. The way markets work in India is completely different. You have to not be intimidated because the potential is there.’

Austrade’s India advisers in action

During the visit, Austrade advisers helped Roberts to make new contacts India. This enabled the company to explore fresh approaches.

Trade and investment opportunities with India

The Australia-India Business Exchange (AIBX) helps boost trade and investment between India and Australia.