The agriculture industry faces the risk of missing the boat if it does not capitalise on export opportunities to China and unite under a ‘clean, green, Australia’ brand, warns mining magnate Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest.
At the 2016 National Farmers’ Federation national congress in Canberra this week, Mr Forrest advised that unless the industry gets behind ‘Brand Australia’, it may find itself ‘dumped back on our own beach’ as Brazilian and New Zealand competitors bag the prize.
Despite a litter of Free Trade Agreements across the Agri-sector, significant barriers remain to the production and free flow of Australian exports. These include the continued existence of non-tariff barriers and a lack of understanding of Australian businesses’ of how to navigate the non-tariff barrier environment.
Among its recommendations, the organisation ASA100 suggests the key is in building a network of influential stakeholders across the agriculture and food manufacturing sectors. This will facilitate long-term, mutually beneficial relationships between Australia and China, fostered on themes of recognition, co-operation and collaboration. ASA100 also promotes infrastructure development and the prioritisation of investment towards infrastructure projects in a bid to increase exports to China.
Mr Forrest suggested the Agriculture sector would do well to emulate the export strategy of the mining industry who demonstrated a collective commitment to lowering trade barriers and a proactive approach to overcoming the challenges facing the agricultural exports. Just as the mining industry had to confront criticism of its environmental impacts, the Ag sector should face animal welfare concerns head on.
Ag start-ups such as the Meat Club, which delivers premium Australian beef overnight to Singaporean households stands as a prime example of one of the ways Australia can cater to the demand for cleanly produced, quality Australian food products.
“We need to grow China’s trust in the Australian agricultural sector and particularly the Australian beef sector, and let them have complete faith in us that our supply, our quality and quarantine standards are the best in the world’, he says.
The ASA100 states this will require increasing bilateral understanding of Australian and Chinese food safety processes, regulations and distribution channels and networks. Twiggy argues Australia needs a national brand and logo to be used in Asia that identifies quality food produced in Australia, based on government-funded market research. The brand, he says would work to ensure Chinese partners and consumers that Australian commodities are the highest quality, and produced to the highest environmental and ethical standards.
However, this will take national unification of all agricultural sectors and commitment to a wholly aligned export goal. The industry at the moment remains ‘fragmented and unfocused’ he says. Mr Forrest says on trips to China customers believed Australian branding lacked clarity, with conflicting messaging and a ‘multitude of different logos’.
Once Australia accepts that we cannot compete with countries such as Brazil or America on scale or cost, we need to emphasise safety, ‘quality and trust’ to ‘demonstrate to the Chinese that we are indeed the world’s most reliable supplier of secure premium agricultural food products,’ he says.