Meeting the expectations of consumers who are increasingly discerning about the quality of the fresh produce they purchase is key to the ongoing competitiveness of Australia’s horticulture industry.
That was the message for delegates at ABARES Outlook 2018 conference in Canberra today.
ABARES’ Senior Economist Dr Caroline Gunning-Trant said Australian horticultural producers operate in a high-cost environment.
“Although we are not always able to compete on price, we can compete on quality, reliability and safety, which are food qualities in high demand in our export markets and which distinguishes us from a number of our competitors,” Dr Gunning-Trant said.
“Exports of fresh horticultural produce were worth more than $2 billion in 2016–17, with strong growth in fruit and nut exports over the past five years.
“Asian import demand for high-quality fresh produce, a relatively low exchange rate and improved market access have all supported Australia’s recent export growth.”
Elliot Jones, General Manager in charge of grape and citrus with Costa Group said understanding consumers’ preferences and expectations about the food they eat is key to delivering product to our export markets.
“China is a fast-growing market where consumers are increasingly brand and quality conscious. High-quality imported produce continues to be a status item in Asian markets,” Mr Jones said.
“But to create sustainable markets for our fresh produce, it is important for industry to concentrate on building critical mass in core markets.
“Maintaining and improving market access protocols will be critical to the industry’s success.
“Our brand and quality consistency will be key to sustaining those markets.”
Closer to home, Ryan Arnold, citrus and grape grower from Pyap Produce in South Australia, is using technology to understand what consumers want.
“Technology provides many opportunities to gain insight into customers’ thoughts, which allows us to tweak production to grow products that meet their expectations.
“Social media platforms connect us to customers and allow us to display the care taken to grow our produce. They also allow consumers to engage in dialogue with us,” Mr Arnold said.
“This has allowed us to evolve our product range and market to specific audiences.”
With a focus on creating value in an increasingly connect world, ABARES Outlook 2018 is being held in Canberra on Tuesday 6 and Wednesday 7 March.