TROPICAL Fruit World's Aymon Gow is relishing the fact that Tweed's lemon myrtle products can now be enjoyed throughout Europe.
Lemon myrtle is a native plant grown in northern NSW and Queensland and its leaves are used in tea and other drinks as a herb or as an ingredient in foods such as sauces, olive oils and biscuits.
Previously declared a “novel food” in the European Novel Food Catalogue, the exportation of lemon myrtle and products containing it to any European countries was threatened.
Novel foods were those that hadn't been exported to a significant extent in Europe before 1997, making them subject to rigorous and expensive testing and regulations in the name of public safety.
But a research project conducted by the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIDC) has helped change the status of lemon myrtle in the catalogue by proving it was used in Europe prior to 1997.
The ability to export it to European countries now has secured a market of 490 million people, which its producers say is a win for the industry.
Mr Gow, TFW's operations manager, said relaxation of the plant's regulations meant it could be sent to Europe for orders, and tourists could also take it back as gifts.
“We have the three lemon myrtle products - the syrup, green tea and the fresh leaves,” Mr Gow said.
“And we sell the plants. It is like eucalyptus; it is seen as a herb and is very popular in fish at the moment. You can put the leaves into whole snapper and bake it or you can tip the syrup on pancakes or ice cream.”
Mr Gow said in light of the current economic climate, securing the European market was a definite win. But, he said, it was difficult to judge how it would affect demand for TFW products.
“We get limited visitors from western Europe, but we do get a lot from the UK, which means they can now take the products back with them.
“At the moment we only export it to Japan. With the new flights to Japan from Coolangatta, Japanese tourists buy gifts, lots of gifts, to take back to all their friends.
“Domestically, over the Christmas period the syrup was probably our biggest seller.”
Lemon myrtle is also said to have therapeutic qualities and is used in antiseptic, anti-viral and sedative treatments.
Researcher and lemon myrtle producer Sibylla Hess-Buschmann, who works in the Murwillumbah area, said Europeans were showing an increasing interest in Australian native foods, including lemon myrtle.
“This is a real breakthrough for our industry...” she said. “We know we have a great product and we know European Union consumers will buy it.”