Tasmanian food and beverage producers are forging new trading relationships with China.
Business talks are underway, despite Australia’s domestic political impasse on the China Australia Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA).
A number of the island’s agribusiness leaders are in China, and Tasmania’s Premier and State Growth Ministers will lead a trade and investment mission in China that departs tomorrow.
The visits and meetings with potential investors will culminate with a showcase of the state’s food and beverage producers at the first Savour Tasmania event in Shanghai.
Austrade’s trade commissioner for food and beverage e-commerce in Shanghai Brent Moore expects Tasmania to export significant volumes of food to China through established online platforms within 18 months.
“Many Tasmanian products are probably already selling in Shanghai or Beijing or Guangzhou,” he said.
“If you look out on the streets, everywhere you’ll see these delivery drivers on bikes full of parcels of skincare products, beauty products, food, beverages, that are being delivered to people’s homes every day.
“That’s a great opportunity, we think, for Tasmanian companies to harness the energy that comes with e-commerce in China.”
Mr Moore said products like fresh seafood and fresh milk are very much in demand because Tasmanian products have a great reputation.
He said investment in cold storage and transport and supply chain management will expand their sales and distribution across China.
“At the moment Tasmanian cherries are selling very, very well online in China,” Mr Moore said.
“There’s a company called Fruit Day which offers a premium, same-day delivery service to get imported fruit and domestic fruit in a luxury box.
“We also see Tasmanian apples coming in through that channel.
“Other fresh produce (seafood, dairy, meat), they are very much in demand by Chinese consumers, for the same reason fruit is.
“Australian products have a great reputation. It’s known to be very clean and very green.
“However, the supply chain, to support quite large volumes of trade in this area, is not developed yet.
“We know it’s a priority of the companies operating in this space.
“They want to address that and there is some investment being made in better cold-chain management in China.
“We think it’s probably only a matter of time until Australian fresh products are available wide-scale across China.”
Tasmanian fresh exporters look for supply chain partners
Austrade and the Chinese Australian business group, Auschin, are also facilitating Chinese investment in Tasmania’s horticultural industry.
Harcourts Landmark Tasmania director Michael Warren said a fruit growing enterprise in Tasmania is seeking a Chinese partner to invest in an orchard expansion, and create a supply-chain within China for the product.
Mr Warren said he attended the Property Showcase China 2015 in Shanghai in August to find suitable business partners.
“[We were] really looking for those Chinese that might have a retail outlet for their horticultural product, and at the same time might invest back into the supply chain,” he said.
“That’s certainly created some interest.
“And in particular cherries, because we’re the only [Australian]state that can export cherries directly into China.
“We also met with some actual farmers, who are wanting to grow some other crops out here.
“Particularly medicinal and herb crops, which is very big in their culture and society.
“I think longer term there’ll be potential for some of that to happen, with our local farmers to grow some of those crops.
“But ownership of land within Tasmania doesn’t seem to be of that much interest.”
Tasmanian fruit growers are doing business at the vast horticultural trade fair, Asia Fruit Logistica in Hong Kong this week.
Fruit Growers Tasmania development manager Phil Pyke said small and large Tasmanian fruit growers were meeting buyers from all around the world.
Mr Pyke said Tasmanian apples had centre stage at Australia’s stand.
“This year, based around the Tasmanian brand, we’ve actually become part of the Australia Fresh stand, the national stand,” Mr Pyke said.
“In fact, Fruit Growers Tasmania is the largest exhibitor on that stand.
“At one stage there I looked at our stand and I thought it was very similar to being on a Hong Kong train in peak hour traffic, and we’ve had a number of people, particularly from mainland China hunt us down.
“They’re looking for our growers.
“There’s no shortage of customers, let’s be frank about that, but there is always the opportunity to meet the better customer, the more consistent customer.
“So instead of putting into the wholesale market, perhaps there’s the opportunity to deal direct with a supermarket chain.
“So how can we bring together those smaller growers to actually collaborate to get into those bigger markets and get a more premium price.”
Tasmanian fruit growers have a protocol to export fresh apples and cherries into China because the state is free of the Queensland fruit fly pest.
Mr Pyke said while vegetable growers are yet to achieve a protocol for export to China, there are a lot of opportunities to get into new export markets as well.
China’s urban growth and appetite for food, fuels Tasmanian potato growers’ optimism
Trevor Hall, a Scottsdale potato grower and chairman of the Tasmanian Farmers and Growers Association’s (TFGA) Simplot growers committee, said be believed Tasmania’s farming future was almost guaranteed by China’s growth.
Mr Hall said his recent trip to the World Potato Congress in China had raised his hopes for the future.
“One of the facts that was put to us while we were in Beijing was that Beijing is going to grow by 25 kilometres in each direction of the compass in the next decade,” Mr Hall said.
“It’s just a massive amount of land that gets taken up by urban sprawl and I think it’s hard to get your head round it in Australia.
“In China they’ve built their cities around their productive farming land, and there are that many people, it just expands out on their best farming land.
“The take home from it was just the sheer weight of numbers of people in China.
“There’s no way known that they can ever feed themselves into the future.”
Mr Hall said growers attending the congress were able to visit a large new potato processing factory and farm in inner Mongolia.
He said they also saw variety trials in Mongolia in areas slated for additional potato crops.
“They are on the hunt for new varieties,” Mr Hall said
“But a lot of the potato production they’re going to try and push into Mongolia, and that’s a pretty hard environment up there.
“Productivity is really on their radar at the moment.
“They grow about 68 million tonnes [of potatoes] and their average yield is a bit over 17 tonnes to the hectare.
“To get up to the 100-million tonnes that they want to reach, if they increase production six tonnes a hectare, they’d get their without bringing any more new land into production.”
This week Tasmanian processing potato growers are considering Simplot’s price offer for the 2016 potato crop.