HORTICULTURE needs to aggressively pursue export opportunities if it’s to remain viable on the Australian agricultural landscape.
It was this message that was pounded down to delegates at the Horticulture Australia Limited (HAL) November 2012 forum in Sydney.
The event focused on opportunities within horticulture particularly those that were export driven.
By the second half of the first day, a picture had well and truly been painted of Australia’s fresh produce landscape and it’s over reliance on domestic trade.
Parliamentary secretary for the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Sid Sidebottom suggested a “commando unit” approach where groups would be focused solely on cracking new foreign markets and forcing them open.
“It’s all about export, export, export. There are only 22 million of us (Australians),” Mr Sidebottom said.
“The markets are there- we’ve got to go get them. To tap a market is to know a market, and to know a market is to study it.”
Director of the Australian Farm Institute and guest speaker Mick Keogh said making relationships with Woolworths and Coles wouldn’t provide access to China or any other foreign markets.
He pointed out that while major supermarket chains such as the American-owned Costco had ventured into other countries, Coles and Woolworths appeared content to trade within Australia.
During a panel discussion session, Mr Keogh challenged the members of HAL to submit a jointly drafted and signed letter to Minister for Agriculture Joe Ludwig to indicate where international trade discussions should be directed regarding horticulture.
He said horticulture appeared very disaggregated and that the various industries needed to find shared agendas.
The idea of promoting “Brand Australia” was something that could be taken a lot further to target the rising middle class in populous countries, according to Mr Keogh.
Mr Sidebottom also spoke of the industry needing to “herd itself” to approach the government as one.
In furthering the benefits of the Federal Government’s Australia in the Asian Century White Paper, Mr Sidebottom said growth markets weren’t confined to China or India but Indonesia as well.
Business facilitator David Thomas spoke on investment opportunities within the BRIC nations (Brazil, Russia, India and China).
He encouraged participants to read China’s five-year plan because it left little doubt as to where the country was headed.
“They set targets and they meet them,” Mr Thomas said.
He said where once powerhouse countries traded off their land, people and capital, the near future would see water, food and energy become the major resource elements.