Victorian produce including table grapes and other summer fruit are exported around the world. As the value of these exports increase, it is more important than ever to
understand what importing countries require, particularly regarding Maximum Residue Limits (MRLs). Responsibly managing residues helps to protect the premium and safe image of Victorian produce and creates new opportunities for export growth. Through the Chemical Use for Market Access project, the Victorian Government has been working to enhance grower, agronomist and industry-wide awareness of actions needed to meet importing country requirements including MRLs.
An MRL is the highest concentration of a chemical residue legally permitted in a food or animal feed. MRLs help to ensure food is safe for consumption and encourage good agri-chemical use on farms. Domestic standards are set by Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ), however, MRLs vary across each international market. Using pesticides according to Australian label instructions does not guarantee that the produce will meet an importing country’s MRL.
Adhering to MRLs is a market access requirement set by the destination country. Prior to export, producers must be aware of, and comply with the MRLs specific to the export market. Non-compliance may result in financial penalties or rejection of product. A single residue detection exceeding an importing country’s MRL for a commodity
can jeopardise Australia’s market access for that commodity.
During the 2018-19 export season, several table grape exporters participated in a residue testing trial run by Agriculture Victoria in partnership with the Australian Table Grape Association. The purpose of the trial was to understand the needs of industry and producers in relation to managing residue requirements in export supply chains.
The trial identified that a good understanding of MRL requirements for multiple international markets can help ensure the marketability of Victorian export produce and facilitate flexibility in market choices for growers.
The trial also confirmed the importance of good chemical management practices for exported products, including:
• being aware of the intended markets’ MRLs
• utilising alternative pesticide applications or pest management methods in cases where a pesticide should be avoided after flowering
• aiming for the lowest MRL of all possible markets (where the destination market is unknown) by avoiding certain chemicals and observing a
suitable withholding period.
Agriculture Victoria has also partnered with Summerfruit Australia Limited (SAL) to identify options to manage pests and diseases while adhering to MRLs and export market requirements. SAL is implementing an export education program to boost grower and agronomist knowledge and to assist with decision making regarding MRLs and export preparedness, while expanding Victoria’s global footprint as an exporter of premium quality produce.
The project forms part of the broader $8 million Growing Food and Fibre Markets program which aims to help Victorian industries and producers better manage market risks, capture market opportunities and increase Victoria’s share of the global agri-food trade.