SYDNEY: Australia is looking into the cause of a hold-up of table grape exports to China, with Trade Minister Dan Tehan saying about 20 per cent of the fruit shipped to the mainland is stuck at the border in yet another sign of deteriorating relations.
"We're trying to work out what is the cause of the hold-up," Tehan told the Australian Broadcasting Corp in an interview published on Thursday (May 20).
"I've been in discussions with the industry around what they're seeing and what they're hearing and we also have our post talking to Chinese officials about this."
Bilateral ties have sunk to their lowest point in decades after Prime Minister Scott Morrison led calls for a global inquiry into the origins of COVID-19, angering China which has since restricted imports of Australian products such as barley, cotton, wine and lobsters.
China is Australia's largest trading partner and despite the tensions in recent months trade volumes have held up, largely supported by strong prices for iron ore - the single biggest item in trade with China.
In the 12 months to March, Australia exported A$149 billion (US$116 billion) worth of goods to China, barely changed from the previous year.
"We don't want to jump to any conclusions," Tehan said when asked if table grapes were the latest target of the trade spar.
"We're trying to work through all of this and we'll keep assessing it," Tehan added. "We want to get to the bottom of it and that's why our officials are also working through this issue with Chinese officials."