Flower boat to Japan

Quarantine inspection at Yokohama of Australian native Christmas bush, after a nine day sea voyage. High quality is not guaranteeing premium returns to growers and some documentation problems have to be addressed.

Quarantine inspection at Yokohama of Australian native Christmas bush, after a nine day sea voyage. High quality is not guaranteeing premium returns to growers and some documentation problems have to be addressed.

Shipping native flowers by sea instead of air could substantially reduce freight costs and add directly to grower returns.

More than 50 per cent of Australian production of native flowers and foliage is exported, mostly to the Japanese market - but presently by air.

However, rising costs and increased competition threaten the industry’s viability.

Reductions in travel time to nine days have helped make sea freight a real option for the industry.

Unlike air freight, temperature can be accurately controlled during sea shipping.

NSW DPI, in co-operation with Maersk Sealand, recently conducted a trial shipment of Australian grown flowers and foliage to Japan.

Quality was evaluated when the products arrived in Tokyo.

As with the shipment of vegetables by sea to Dubai, reported in the April edition of Agriculture Today, the product arrived fresh.

However, for flowers there are also some problems to overcome, including clear labelling, paperwork and shipping documentation.

According to DPI’s Gosford based project leader, Jenny Ekman, the project highlighted a number of supply chain issues within the industry.

'There is a clear need for reliable product quality standards, standardised packaging and labelling, clear communication between supply chain members and accurate market feedback to growers,' Dr Ekman said.

Other trial results were positive.

Products such as NSW Christmas bush and Tasmanian rice flower suffered little quality loss during shipping and received good prices.

All of the foliages trialled looked as fresh when they came out of the container as when they were packed.

Kangaroo paws benefited from being shipped upright in containers of water.

Flowers are normally packed dry in cartons for export.

However, according to Dr Ekman, kangaroo paws could well arrive in the Japanese market in better condition after nine days cool storage in water, than after two days dry storage under warmer temperatures, as occurs during air freight.

Sea freight was approximately 61pc of the cost of air freight.

Returns at auction were reduced by approximately 10pc compared to air freighted products, suggesting that this shipping method could improve returns to growers.

Contact: Dr Jenny Ekman, Gosford, 02 4348 1942.