Victorian fruit and vegetable growers are eyeing Italy as a lucrative export market with the potential to act as a gateway into Europe.

The Victorian fruit & vegetable industry and the Italian Chamber of Commerce have recently completed a ten-month trial of fruit and vegetables exports worth A$2m (US$1m) from Victoria to Italy, and secretary general of the Italian Chamber of Commerce in Melbourne, Henry La Motta, has praised the quality of Australia's fruit and vegetables as equal to Italian produce.

Growers in the region hope to have exported A$10m worth of fresh produce to Italy by next July, but La Motta warned that the export prices paid are similar to those offered on the domestic market. However, he added: "Although growers might not make any more money by exporting to Italy, they need to start thinking about the long-term gains made from such an export market.

"If we can form a relationship with the Italian markets then that is our door into Europe, and we don't have to fight the rigorous EU protocols."

Bob Penter, CEO of Melbourne Markets told the Herald and Weekly Times that he too hoped the trial would spark a productive relationship with Italy and that Australia stood to benefit from supplying Italy during its off season with fresh produce: "The reality is that there is a glut of produce in Australia and we need to find good markets overseas. If we don't handle this properly we will lose out to other countries such as Chile and South Africa."