An Australian company is stepping up its sales in Japan, with a new larger, sweeter Crimson line commencing this month in selected stores.

Budou Farms, based in Merbein in South Victoria, says its Jumbo size Crimson is like having a new variety, which is crunchy, juicy with a good ratio sugar to acid.

“The response has been very predictable; ‘please send more’ and they have started to compare with other arrivals of average size fruit and seems we are creating new standards,” owner Enrique Rossi said. “In saying this, there is a space for everything and everyone, but if you want to compete, I think we must show we can provide this year after year and that we have as a point of difference of constant quality. It makes you addicted to it, on top of this, it travels very well and just to look at it, looks yummy.”

The farm is owned by Chilean-Japanese couple, who focus mostly in export to Japan, saying that customers from that country want the produce with no chemical residue and being super sweet (19 brix+). This year, Budou will also launch a new line for kids called Rainbow.

“This is a line we have created thinking in 2 points,” Mr Rossi said. “First we aim to do not have waste and thinking in what I said before there is space for everything and everyone, hence we thought we do have a small volume of our crimson which is not fully coloured, instead of waste it, let’s do something for someone who would like sweet, healthy and would take it as game. (Co-owner) Junko (Matsuzaki) came the idea as a Japanese wording of “niji no budou”, which our 3 years old daughter Azusa, learnt and identified immediately, then we did the test with other local Japanese kids and all loved this line of fruit not being fully coloured, but it is super sweet 19+ brix and the rainbow image just fit.”

Mr Rossi says growing conditions this year has been challenging, with lot of cloudy days and extreme temperatures that ranged from 44 degrees celsius to 11 degrees. But he adds luckily the rainfall concentrated during winter and that is a big plus, meaning they have managed to have their fruit ready from the normal, early February timeslot with overall good yields. It is not just Japan that is interested in the Australian produce from Budou Farms.

“A lot of people find us on our Facebook page, and we have people from Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam, Korea, China and even Canada asking to be supplied,” he said. “We see a big demand for Australian grapes and buyers are looking for a point of differentiation, like safety, timing and size, which we can provide with no complications, plus the interaction that we the people who grow it are also selling it, less middle man, real time information and actions.”

The technology is not just a sales portal for the business, but a communication tool that is used for a personal connection with the growers. Mr Rossi points out that the social media page is like a blog, which shows almost weekly what happens on the farm, making it very personal and creating a relationship. For example, this year they had a wind storm and a few rows on young vines where down, our customer in Japan called and ask how they could help.

“Imagine that,” Mr Rossi said. “They worry at that level from so far away. Other examples are related to growers asking how we do things and exchange information and sometimes end customers asking where the fruit will available.”

In coming years, Budou will start producing Inia Grape One. This variety is full black with a size range that can go from 22-26mm and travels quite well. Mr Rossi says he saw the variety when was just released in Chile about 5 years ago and now he is testing how it performs at his farm, but admits will take a few years to have significant volumes. The company hopes by then, protocol to Japan allow this variety into the country, but if not, they know other markets that are quite interested.

“We are testing INIA grape One and few other varieties that at this stage cannot be named,” Mr Rossi said. “We have selected INIA One, as we saw it in Chile when was just released, it is in a harvest window that fit us, and its size, colour, storage and its flavour attributions are also very good and at this stage, we will see how it grows under Australian conditions, but we think will have a very good potential for any market in Asia. Also this variety allow us to market and sell it by ourselves, so we are not linked or depend on anyone to do so. If everything goes to plan, we expect to see the first commercial bunches by 2020-21.”

He adds that Japanese customers already know this variety and would love to have it supplied by Australia, so there is demand for it. Unfortunately it is not in the protocol list, with Australia having a protocol that only allows three varieties to be sold over there which are Crimson, Thompson and Red Globe, but Mr Rossi says discussions among the two governments to open it to more varieties.

“Perhaps the In-transit Cold Treatment, could be reviewed from an agronomist’s point of view,” he said. “It is very unlikely that if a live fly arrived at the port in Yokohama or Osaka, when in Japan it is winter and snowing, that it could breed and stay there during the harsh conditions. Even if we accept that it could be a risk, maybe the ITC could be more flexible if something goes wrong during the voyage, rather than divert. So yes there is a lot of room for improvement and it is understandable that at some point institutions must take their time.” –