Vietnam has followed through on its intention to effectively ban imports of Australian fruit from 1 January, 2015.

Vietnam has issued no import permits for Australian fruit and vegetables for this year, citing concerns about fruit fly.

No produce is currently being traded.

Horticultural exports to Vietnam were worth $40 million last year.

The tablegrape industry made up $32 million of that, and Michelle Christoe from the Horticultural Exporters' Association says that's where the ban will hit hardest.

"There is no alternate market that has a clear trade path for the black table grapes, in particular the Midnight Beauty," she said.

"They won't get the same sort of returns on the local market, and at the moment we do have an oversupply of table grapes on the local market."

Vietnam has expressed particular concerns about Mediterranean fruit fly, primarily an issue in Western Australia rather than the eastern states.

But many within the Australian horticulture sector privately believe the real reason for Vietnam's decision to tighten its import regulations is because of that country's frustration over the length of time taken by Australia in deciding whether it will accept horticultural imports from Vietnam.

"The Vietnamese have been wanting to import lychees [to Australia] since 2003.

"However, we've only, in early December reviewed their management system to look at whether the Australian conditions for irradiated fruit are going to be successful," Ms Christoe said.

She says Australia's import risk assessment (IRA) process needs to be faster, but should also be reviewed to 'be moving hand in hand, strategically, with out exports, so we don't have trade being banned.'

But Ms Christoe says that doesn't mean compromising Australia's quarantine conditions.

"We're asking for it just to be looked at a lot faster.

"We're not saying there's anything wrong with the produce that's being reviewed, we just need to be reviewing it faster and [with] more resources being applied to it," she said.

Cherry Growers Australia chief executive Simon Boughey has also supported the call for a review of Australia's assessment processes.

"Australia's a very difficult place sometimes to bring fruit into, so I think we've got to look at the whole system," he said.

"When we talk about importation of fruit, it's the market forces that will be at play in terms of how much of that fruit will actually be consumed by the Australian consumer."

Mr Boughey says industry is 'very, very keen' to work with the Australian Department of Agriculture to resolve issues with Vietnam and restore trade as quickly as possible, but he wouldn't speculate on a timeframe within which that might be achieved.

In a statement, a Department of Agriculture spokesman said it is 'working with the Vietnamese Government to provide additional information about fruit fly management and control in Australia.'

"Officials in the region are meeting as often as possible with Vietnamese counterparts to minimise trade disruptions and encourage early resolution of Vietnam's concerns," the spokesman said.

"We value our trade relationship with Vietnam very highly and are committed to providing Vietnam with products that meet their importing country requirements, just as we are committed to ensuring Australian producers have cost effective treatment options to access the market."

The Department is due to host a fifth teleconference with industry representatives tomorrow, to update them on the progress of negotiations.

Article via ABC Rural News - 5 Jan 2015