Counterfeit oranges and mandarins are being sold in China as Australian produce, a sour note on a $6.8 billion agricultural market.
The fruit is being dyed and sold in a variety of Australianised packaging, sometimes with incongruous motifs like lions added.
Citrus Australia, the peak body representing growers, said China was the “fastest growing and highest valued export market reaching $30 million to September 2014”.
The peak body was concerned that fruit was being dyed using toxic chemicals, and feared damage to Australia’s reputation as a clean and healthy fruit grower.
Australia ships 18,000 tonnes of the fruit to China, said Andrew Harty, the market development manager for Citrus Australia.
“We get particularly worried when there’s potentially a food safety issue there and that we might get implicated in that,” he told the ABC Thursday morning
The faked boxes are easy to spot on the eastern sea board of China because of spelling mistakes, Mr Harty said, and they are being sold out of season and the style of fruit is not like Australia’s products.
But there’s a sweeter side to the fruit-faking: “It’s kind of saying ‘yes, we’ve made it, we’ve been recognised and were worth copying,” Mr Harty said.
New Zealand Kiwi Fruit are also being faked, the Weekly Times reported, with Zespri branded products “targeted”.
The New Zealand single-desk kiwi fruit seller was moving to protect its name from forgery according to the report.