Home' Smart Farmer : August 2014 Contents Smart horticulture
mixed Asian outlook
By ASHLEY WALMSLEY
EXPERTS seem unsure about
the role Australian produce
could play in the burgeoning
Delegates at the Ausveg National
Convention in Cairns last month
heard from various speakers who
delivered mixed messages about the
potential for vegetable exports to
The Ausveg Convention drew
together major vegetable produc-
ers and supply chain players from
throughout Australia and beyond.
Exports were a key discussion
topic among several speakers
throughout the morning session.
Horticulture Australia Limited
CEO John Lloyd spoke frankly on
his topic of "a rational future".
He said Australia's fresh produce
industry risks being too reliant on
its sustainable and environmental
credentials, and the country's clean,
green image was just a ticket to the
party but did not guarantee secure
"We are not, and never will be, the
food bowl of Asia," Mr Lloyd said.
He also shared his thoughts on
Australia losing its strength in
"I don't think Australia has the
edge in research and development it
used to," Mr Lloyd said.
His comments were further
backed up by Federal Agriculture
Minister Barnaby Joyce in his key-
"The idea we will be the food
basket of Asia is bunkum," Mr Joyce
Having said that, he pointed
out opportunities still existed but
Australia wasn't the only country
investing in and promoting its green
"It's all about getting a fair price
back to growers at the farm gate,"
CEO Koppert Cress, Netherlands,
Rob Baan, an international micro-
vegetable grower and marketing
expert, put it bluntly to the growers
at the convention: "You in Australia
are good producers, but you're not
good exporters. Sorry," he said.
Mr Baan said growers worldwide
needed to re-think food production
and how it was valued.
Independent SA Senator Nick
Xenophon addressed the conference
and was more optimistic about
"Our clean, green production is
what we must capitalise on," he said.
"When it comes to biosecurity, we
need a better, tougher political way
to protect our growers."
He also said Australia needed to
address the supermarket duopoly
once and for all.
The comments cautioning against
placing too much faith in Asian
markets stood in contrast to research
funded by Horticulture Australia
Limited (HAL) into vegetable poten-
tial in China.
Managing director and Caspar
Wright business consulting and
quantitative director Cognition
Supply chain players from
Clean, green image 'ticket to the
Conference optimistic about
Senator Nick Xenophon says Australia needs to capitalise on its clean, green
HAL CEO John Lloyd told delegates Australia will never be the food bowl of Asia.
Short-staple trend: Woolgrowers
are being urged to shear more often
to provide processors with more
reliable supplies of shorter-staple
wool for the fast-expanding knitted
garment market. Australian producers
visiting China as part of the Elders
China Wool Tour last month were
given first-hand feedback from
woollen mills about the impact of
'casualisation' in the clothing market.
"Fashion changes mean there is
much demand for casual clothing
styles," vice-general manager of
the Open Top Textile Corporation
Guo Xin Yasaid said. OTCL, in the
Zhangjiagang free trade zone north
of Shanghai, is 33 per cent owned by
Australian woolbuyer, exporter and
processor Fox and Lillie. "Worsted
suits are not nearly as popular in
China as they used to be -- even in
Italy the market is much less inter-
ested in suiting material," Mr Guo
told 47 producers and others involved
in the Australian wool industry visit-
ing Chinese textile plants, farms and
agribusiness events. "There is quite
strong demand for short wool -- shear
your sheep more often," he said,
supporting a rising trend among
some woolgrowers towards shearing
three times in 24 months. China buys
between 70pc and 80pc of Australia's
raw wool output. Australian Wool
Innovation says casualisation of the
apparel market is strong in Asia --
even breaking down Japan's formal
traditions -- but also clearly evident in
Europe, North America and Australia.
Research Bill Morgan delivered
data from that research suggesting
a targeted approach was important,
perhaps in three major cities --
Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou.
They said these cities have 58
million people who consume five
million tonnes of vegetables per
In comparison, Australia con-
sumes about four million tonnes.
Again, the green and clean image
came to the fore with the research
information showing Chinese con-
sumers would be willing to spend
more on Aussie produce.
Mr Morgan said affluent Chinese
buyers are concerned about the
health of their local vegetables and
therefore enticed to pay more for
"Chinese consumers think that
standard Australian produce would
be as good as organic Chinese prod-
uct," Mr Morgan said.
It was traditional lines from
Australia such as carrots, potatoes
and broccoli that were in demand, as
opposed to specialist lines, accord-
ing to the Cognition Research.
He said the issue of market access
was an ambiguous one.
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