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Growing Innovation: Issue 9, June 17, 2016

Boutique Tasmanian olive grove aims for China

Sean and Chrissie Ahern, Mt Direction Olives, Tas

 

Sean Ahern and his wife Chrissie arrived in Tasmania by yacht 30 years ago, after an extended adventure in the Pacific.

The couple set down roots in the state’s north-east, establishing Mt Direction Olives and planting 2000 frantoio and manzanillo olive trees in 1999.

Sean said although the trees were continuing to mature due to the cooler Tasmanian climate, production had increased most years.

The business’ Tamar Valley olive oil blend is growing in popularity and the Aherns are hoping to take advantage of the Australian Olive Association’s Olive Route program.

“From our perspective, it is an opportunity to get geared up with all of the certificates and registrations we need, to sell Australian oil into China. It gives us a bit more confidence to push on with exporting,” Sean said.

The program aims to achieve the best olive oil prices for exporting Australian growers who meet stringent Chinese standards.

Sean and Chrissie are hoping to export their first pallet of olive oil this year.

To this end, Sean recently attended a workshop in Melbourne to learn more about Horticulture Innovation Australia’s Olive Industry Export Handbook which was being prepared for launch.

The purpose of this handbook is to assist growers in meeting the required criteria to successfully export and sell extra virgin olive oil to the Chinese market.

It covers food safety, traceability, quality, packaging, labelling, product distribution standards and advice about promotion.

This information promises to be of great benefit to Sean and Chrissie, who have a processor onsite and complete the majority of farm work, including bottling, themselves.

“We go from row to row selectively harvesting the ripe fruit and processing it straight away. The business is vertically integrated from planting to harvest. We have a motto, ‘from tree to tank in three hours’.”

Sean said the greatest challenge facing the industry was exposing lower quality or “fraudulent,” products, being marketed as extra virgin olive oil.

 

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