An Asian market consultant has told fruit and vegetable growers to prioritise value-adding their produce if they want to tap into the opportunities for export.
Noel Shield from Asia Project Management has 20 years experience dealing with retailers in Asia.
At an agricultural export and logistics forum in Bundaberg, he told growers accessing foreign markets would require a rethink on how the industry was structured at home.
“We need to bring the processing plants, whether it be in horticulture or agriculture or beef, we need to bring these processing plants back to the point of distribution,” he said.
Along with helping overcome protocols and other restrictions on fresh foods, Mr Shield said value-adding also helped produce appeal to Asian customers.
“We haven’t touched the surface on value-added product,” he said.
“Yes it does get around protocols but even beside that fact, we’re a society now of grab and go and that is all value-added, pre-prepared, ready-to-go meals.
“Asia actually is one of the leaders of that area of the world.
“We don’t see it a lot in Australia but as the next generation comes through there’ll be a big focus on it.”
He said more and more Asian retailers were importing direct, Australian producers would need to shift their thinking to attract new customers.
“As businesses we now have to change our model to continue to be able to service the retailer,” he said.
“In other words, we have to add value.
“We have to be in a position where they demand our services.”
He said smaller Australian producers would need to collaborate through industry groups or other large corporations to take advantage of the potential in Asia.
“You have to be a part of a collaboration or you supply a corporate that does it,” he said.
“The normal small business hasn’t got the funds and the capital to do that type of thing and even if they did have then they haven’t got the knowledge to look for the new markets.
“So you need this cooperative group, whether it be a group of farmers, whether it be through corporate, but that needs to happen.”
But he said once conquered, Asia did have the potential to revolutionise Australian horticulture.
“We have to get industry to support it, we have to get government’s to support it, and then we also then need the suppliers with the mindset to be able to take advantage,” he said.
“It might be in some instances changing the whole model of their farm or it might be investing in technology or major capital projects.”