A SHIPMENT of Queensland bananas and melons to Japan aims to support an analysis of how shipping conditions impact the fruits.

Queensland’s Department of Agriculture and Fisheries has been working with industry partners for four years to analyse the impact of shipping and supply chain conditions on such as storage temperature, and ripening conditions, on the appearance and flavour of the fruit.

DAF is leading the project “Supply chain monitoring and improvement to reduce banana quality loss” alongside the Fight Food Waste CRC and Pacific Coast Produce.

Pacific Coast Produce has shipped red-wax-tipped Ecoganic bananas to Japan as part of the trial, and Daintree Fresh has shipped Emperor’s Pearl melons.

The banana shipment was airfreighted directly from Cairns instead of being transported to Sydney before export. The state government claims this was a first for Australia.

According to DAF, direct air travel makes it easier to maintain optimum supply chain conditions, reducing the risk of food waste and ensuring the fruit arrives in the best condition.

Data from this shipment will look at the possibilities and obstacles of exporting bananas as airfreight from Cairns.

DAF horticulturists will also conduct blind tastings with the Japanese public to identify consumer preferences and compare the Australian-grown bananas with imported fruit.

The results of the project will be fed back to the Australian fruit-growing industry, with a view to local growers tapping into the Japanese market.

To date, there is no large-scale Australian banana export market to Japan, according to the state government.

More than 99% of Australian-grown bananas are consumed locally, and our high relative wages mean Australian growers have been unable to compete with exports from south-east Asian countries.

But ecofriendly and organic fruit is able to fetch a premium price in Japan, offering a potential inroad for Australian growers.

Queensland agricultural industry development minister Mark Furner said it was important for the state to keep exploring potential markets.  

“Bananas are an important crop worth around $600 million to Queensland,” he said.

“By optimising how we export this fruit, we can ensure that the produce is as fresh and delicious when it arrives on the shelves in Japan as it is when we buy it here.

“DAF’s horticulturists play a key role in supporting industry to access more export pathways for Queensland produce, creating economic growth and benefit for Queensland.”

Pacific Coast Produce managing director Frank Sciacca said the company has been exporting Ecoganic bananas Singapore and Hong Kong since 2009.

“But the unpredictable arrival quality of our fruit has been a barrier to future market growth,” he said.

“Our Ecoganic farming system is underpinned by strong evidence-based science to prove ecology restoration in commercial food production is possible.

“The project and the DAF team has shown us how critical it is to monitor supply-chain performance for identifying opportunities to improve practices that ensure consistent delivery of a premium product.”