Acting Prime Minister Michael McCormack has staked his claim to be the country’s No.1 cherry fan after picking apart China’s claims that Chilean fruit is superior.
Earlier this week, Chinese state media reported the taste and quality of Australian cherries had dropped, prompting importers to favour other markets.
Growers responded sourly, insisting there had been no complaints about premium fruit grown on Australian farms.
Mr McCormack’s NSW electorate includes Young, a cherry growing hub, and is close to Batlow, where fruit is also grown.
On Friday, he gave a detailed review of the qualities that get him so fired up about cherries.
“They were the biggest, plumpest, ripest, most tastiest cherries I’ve ever had and they went down very well on the Christmas dinner table, let me tell you,” the Nationals leader said..
“I’m sure wherever else they produce cherries in Australia they are the best and I want to get stuck in to them, they’re great.
“Red juice, juicy, plump – beautiful. Wherever we produce cherries they’re great.”
But there wasn’t any glowing praise about Chile’s produce: “They’re not better. They’re certainly not better.”
There are concerns the report in the Chinese state-run tabloid The Global Times could be a precursor to another trade strike against Australian products.
With diplomatic relations in the doldrums, restrictions have been slapped on wine, barley, timber, lobster, beef, coal and cotton.
Mr McCormack acknowledged how important the relationship with Australia’s biggest trading partner was for farmers.
“Our phone lines are always open. Our doors are always open as far as diplomatic relations with China are concerned,” he said.
He would not be drawn on whether the World Health Organisation investigation into the origins of coronavirus could further hurt bilateral relations, pivoting to the local announcement he was attending.
“I’m not going to get in a debate about what China should or shouldn’t be doing,” Mr McCormack said.
“Our focus has always been on health outcomes and rebuilding the economy.
“That’s why programs such as this – albeit a stormwater drain – little by little projects such as this and larger projects are helping build our economy.”