ALMOST half the production of one of Tasmania's biggest cherry growers is now being exported to China.
As the Year of the Dragon puffs its last breath, Tasmanian cherries will be gracing Chinese tables in time for gift-giving for the Year of the Snake - starting on February 10.
From today, 20 tonnes a day of quality cherries are being exported to Beijing and Shanghai from Reid Fruits packing sheds at Huonville.
After months of finalising protocols, the first shipment of 2kg and 5kg boxes left Wednesday for one customer.
The importer could pay up to $85 for a 5kg box of the premium product.
Reid Fruits managing director Tim Reid said boxes were on Beijing supermarket shelves yesterday.
"This is a big outcome. We have been working on this project for more than a decade," Mr Reid said.
"It will be a whole new market for the industry leading to more jobs."
Mr Reid, who is one of the state's biggest growers, said Tasmania's disease-free status satisfied stringent quarantine requirements.
Fruit Growers Tasmania business development manager Lucy Gregg said China presented huge opportunities for Tasmanian growers.
"This is a fantastic opportunity for Tasmanian cherry growers and exporters to access another key Asian markets. We currently have access to Taiwan, South Korea and Japan due to our area-free status for fruit fly and a range of other non-protocol markets across Asia," Ms Gregg said.
Ten Tasmanian growers could send cherries to China this season. That could grow to 50 growers next season.
Read more on The Mercury.