By Boyd Champness

THE Australian apple industry is set to take its Pink Lady apples to the United States after achieving astonishing success in the United Kingdom.

The industry surpassed its wildest expectations by selling an estimated 120,000 to 150,000 cases to the UK market this year at premium prices.

And with production set to grow from 20,000 tonnes this year to 47,000 tonnes in 2002 the industry is looking to export Pink Ladys to the USA as soon as next year.

Australian Apple and Pear Growers Association chief executive officer Jon Durham told the Weekly Times the US had the potential to become a major outlet for Australian Pink Ladys.

Domestic production of Pink Ladys in the USA is expected to grow from 8000 tonnes this year to about 70,000 tonnes in 2004, but Mr Durham said Australia had the advantage of being able to supply apples during the northern hemisphere winter.

“We would expect over the next 12 months, encompassing the northern hemisphere season and the next southern hemisphere season, there would be a little over one million boxes sold in the UK,” he said.

“We [Australia] would expect 20-25% of that.”

Meanwhile, Australias Navel orange export program to the USA has been rated an outstanding success.

A total of 1.4 million cartons of Navels was shipped to the USA this year and sold at retail outlets in more than 40 states for US$28 to US$36 a carton.

According to The Weekly Times, the company co-ordinating the program, Riversun, initially aimed to send two million cartons, but a high proportion of small fruit in the Australian crop – which was unsuitable for the USA – changed the scenario.

General manager Steven Allen told the newspaper that the citrus industry could reasonably expect to send 1.5 million cartons of Navels to the USA every year for the foreseeable future.

“The deep orange of the Australian citrus is something that they just dont see,” he said.

“In fact, a lot of people ask us if it is a natural colour.”