WHEN it comes to China and Australian agriculture, there are three types of people.
There’s the Xenophobic Know-Nothings that condemn foreign investment as they’re petrified of the wealth and power of the Chinese. They’re un-international, can’t see an Australia past their own legacy and cling to flimsy ‘food security’ arguments to fuel their embarrassing rhetoric.
Next are the Fence Sitters, the quietest group. They’ve not been fleeced by fear and have vision enough to see the great opportunity that the Asian Century brings. They’re unsure on what this gargantuan wave of wealth and demand will leave behind, which is, granted, something we have never seen anything quite like this before. They may remember the similar hype around the Japanese "taking us over" in the 1980s, (when Japanese investors bought up Aussie resources, universities and real estate before their eventual fall) and got over it. They may be confounded by cultural differences and risk, but open to opportunity.
The third type are Go-Getters. They’re determined to steer Australia away from being Asian white trash through their thirst to grab the future with both hands. The Chinese are saying, “help us, help you, help us” and this group are opening the door to engage through conversation, commercial deals and most importantly, building relationships. Strong relationships based on trust and respect are vital with the Chinese.
So where are all these Go-Getters?
Well, the largest group of them I’ve ever seen mustered in Toowoomba last week for the Ag in the Asian Century Conference. An annual event run by Toowoomba and Surat Basin Enterprise (TSBE), an independent organisation that’s committed to creating sustainable growth and diversity for their region through sourcing opportunity for local businesses both here and abroad.
Now I’ve been to many an ag conference, but I have to say, this line-up generated the best thought leadership through their experience, risk appetite and the best wide knowledge base I’ve ever seen.
I wanted to bring you some of the key takeaways, not just through my eyes, but through those of other attendees. Here are some of their and my Tweets.
Shane Charles: Out of every 10 people in the world, 6 are from Asia. It all makes sense why Asia is on everyone's lips
Charlotte Corbyn: Engagement with Asia starts with spending time there. Students with experience in Asia will add great value at home, in this region.
Craig Zonca: Alfred Chung says Chinese market will soon be the largest in world for premium products
Bindi Turner: Chinese students studying in Aus are 'fairdinkum' about learning our business culture & helping to develop agri/food business
Anna Campbell: Integrated, efficient large scale supply chains critical to trade live cattle & boxed beef to China: Alfred Chung
Brendan Taylor: Words of wisdom from Alfred Chung - "It's too late to start digging the dunny when the diarrhea has started"
Sam Trethewey: Choose your entry strategy carefully. China isn't 1 market. Some provinces have bigger GDP PPP than whole of Australia
Sam Trethewey: Patrick Vizzone says don’t leave good business acumen at airport. Don't jump to a deal, success in China takes time.
Rachael Hedges: Explain your values, intentions, commitment & how you are going to add value to them - to consumers & the community
Bindi Turner: Chris Riddell says: Know your future customer, customer experience - good is not good enough, data driven decisions - in real-time!
Sam Trethewey: Perhaps replace 'cash is king' with 'data is king'. Data feeds the rapidly growing $570B USD e-commerce industry in China.
Sam Trethewey: "Barriers for new players to perishable e-commerce market in China. 1. Policy/Customs 2. Supply/Cold chain management" Rick Wan
Derek Barry: James Campbell from Sanger: Key adaptations for doing business in China - customer facing, secure supply chains, invest in brands, value add, use tech, continuous improvement & make sure your house in order
Julie Cotter: Keys to attracting capital to expand Aussie ag - investment ready, balanced partnerships and education
Charlotte Corbyn: Simon Talbot, National Farmer's Federation: Digital divide between regions and cities is holding ag back.
Caitie Tomlinson: Treat every province in China like it's a different country - that's the message from Raymond Ng
Regulatory barriers can be like “Great wall of China" says Raymond Ng - if you don't get it right, products can be blacklisted
Kate Reardon: Always remember you're a foreign when operating in Asia. Follow the rules, don't undertake quick fixes! Craig Aldous insights
dms CREATiVE: "Invest in understanding the consumer just as much as your export infrastructure".
Sam Trethewey: Elders set to grow by 25% pa for next two years as market share in premium restaurants expands for Aussie meat.
Sam Trethewey: Craig Aldous emphasising the 'must have'. Controlling YOUR supply chain, every step. Integrity only as strong as weakest link.
Simon Talbot: Long term mutuality the key successful Chinese Australian food and agribusiness
TSBE: You can't make assumptions about the #China market.... You have to see it, feel it & understand it.
And lastly, and most appropriately from the chairman of TSBE, John Wagner:
TSBE: John Wagner at #AginAsia: get off your backside, push through barriers and make things happen. The opportunity is on our doorstep.
I encourage you all to get a full perspective on the event by perusing #AginAsia on Twitter.
You don’t need a Twitter account and the insights and photos of presentations will be of great value to Go-Getters or Fence Sitters that are keen to make a move or know more.
A huge thanks to TSBE for putting on an impressive show for their region, that the whole country can benefit from. It was a much needed re-group of knowledge and experience for others to learn from and work with.