Exports key to hort viability

16 Dec, 2012 01:00 AM
Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Sid Sidebottom says Australian horticulture needs to aggressively pursue export markets.
Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Sid Sidebottom says Australian horticulture needs to aggressively pursue export markets.

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.

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Ian Mott
17/12/2012 9:46:34 AM

Crap! Just spare us the disguised subsidy of the tourist industry via the overpriced and underperforming urban backpackers work scam. And get us access to the worlds 3 billion real farm workers who can do a full days work, week-in, week-out, without injuries, and will leap at the chance to earn $5/hour on a two year contract. And then we can start exporting on the same basis as the Yanks do with their $4/hour Mexicans, the Israelis do with their $5/hour Thai guest workers, and the Italians do with their $3.40/hour North Africans. Get real or get photographed.
17/12/2012 11:48:49 AM

I agree with Ian, you always get the guys with no skin in the game telling the guys with millions on the line how to do it. With cost of production tied to the 2nd highest wage structure in agriculture in the world no wonder we cant export. Some 65pc of fruitgrowers cost of production is wage related, @ $24.00/Hr here in Aus compared to $7-$9 per day in sth africa or even in NZ $ 10.00/hr what chance have we got? The govt is always talking about level playing field and open competition but they never, ever, would contemplate such a thing for wages.
B Liar
17/12/2012 6:23:58 PM

How can we agressively pursue export markets when we are all going broke because of government influenced red tape and uncompetitive playing field? Carrer public servants with no history and no strategy annoy me unfortunately.
Ian Mott
18/12/2012 7:51:19 AM

Thanks Colonel. The irony is that most of our existing farm workers would be needed to supervise small teams of guest workers. There wouldn't be any loss of existing farm jobs. And there would be strong demand for additional training in language and management skills for a lot of people who currently have no scope for career progression. The cost, in lost opportunity, of our union/lefts impoverished imagination is absolutely huge.
Jock Munro
18/12/2012 11:25:00 AM

Excellent contributions. Our domestioc market should be used as a basis for our exports not as something to completely undermine the industry with cheap imports and unfettered market power of the supermarkets.


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