THE AUSTRALIAN table grape industry is Australia’s largest fresh fruit exporter: at its peak, it exported $623 million worth of grapes, out of a total national production value of $880 million. During an April 13 dinner at Quezon City’s Lemuria called One Grape Day by Hort Innovation (Horticulture Innovation Australia) through the Grown in Good Nature campaign, media guests saw these grapes up-close and personal.

Bunches of grapes hung above tables, which served the grapes in a salad and a mocktail. After dinner, guests were bidden to pick the grapes.

“Good soil is essential. Good irrigation, not too much water, and not so little. Plenty of sunshine,” said Christopher Lim, Senior Trade and Investment Commissioner & Minister-Counsellor (Commercial) at the Australian Embassy, explaining the conditions that grow the perfect grape: which are incidentally, present in Australia.

Sunshine is also responsible for giving the grapes their sweetness. The grape-growing regions in the southwest, south, and southeast of the country happen to enjoy a Mediterranean climate. “The good thing about our situation in Australia is that we have great open lands, very good environment; it’s perfect for growing such fresh produce,” he said.

Mr. Lim could not give exact figures on the amount of Aussie grapes that make it here to the Philippines, but he said, “It’s growing all the time.”

“We are very keen to get more Australian grapes here in the Philippines,” he added. A release said that the Philippines ranks fifth in the market consumption of table grapes.

More than the conditions given by geography, the grapes’ quality is also aided by efficiency. “What you get is good quality, good supply chain, good logistics, and good quality assurance. This is something that you could rely on with Australian grapes,” Mr. Lim said. He pointed out factors like minimal handling: once the fruit is harvested, it is placed in cool rooms within an hour and from there, all the way through the cold chain process, the grapes do not exceed 3 degrees Celsius. The bags in which the grapes are stored are the same bags that appear in the supermarkets.

“Distance traveled,” he said, citing another key factor in the quality of the grapes. “The time traveled is much shorter.” The nearest grape-growing area in Australia relative to the Philippines is in Perth, which is a 6.5-hour flight away from the Philippines. Other grape-growing areas in Australia are accessible through flights that take about 7.5 hours. According to a release, proximity to the Philippines means grapes can be in the market within 48 hours if air-freighted or 16 days by sea. “Where in under 48 hours can you get high-quality grapes? This is a very, very good competitive advantage. You know it’s going to be fresh. It’s not shipped halfway around the world,” said Mr. Lim.

Australian table grapes will be available this season from February to the end of June in leading supermarkets such as Landmark, Robinsons, and S&R. — Joseph L. Garcia