MAJOR UK retailer Harvey Nichols is planning its next visit to Western Australia just a week after its representatives sampled some of the State’s best fare on a food and wine tour to WA’s South West.
The visitors sampled foods from 16 gourmet food companies during the tour, including businesses specialising in olives, meats and berries. And some of WA’s best-known wineries were also on the agenda, including Evans and Tate, Howard Park and Leeuwin Estate.
Department of Industry and Resources export development manager Michael Dixon said Harvey Nichols was one of a number of large retail chains taking an interest in acquiring gourmet food products from WA.
And, with the Margaret River region well known around the world, its products were in high demand.
Mr Dixon said total food exports could be divided into three categories – unprocessed foods, general processed foods and value-added products.
He said Japan and Singapore were the biggest exporters in terms of processed food, while the UK dominated the market when in terms of wine exports.
Food and beverage exports comprise around 14 per cent of all exports coming out of WA, but the area of value-added foods and beverages has undergone the strongest growth in recent years.
According to the Department of Industry and Resources, processed food and beverage exports have grown annually almost 7 per cent in the past decade, almost doubling in value from $542 million in 1991-92 to $918 million in 2001-02.
The wine industry makes up a large portion of all WA’s processed food exports, with the UK and the United States the major markets.
WA received $45 million from the export of more than 5,000,000 litres of wine in 2002-03.
Wine Industry Association of WA chief executive officer Sarah Dent said wine from this State was highly regarded around the world.
“We sell our wine at twice the national average, due to the quality of the supply chain from the grapes to the glass,” she said.
A key to the Department of Industry and Resources strategy for the export of WA foods is tourism, according to Mr Dixon.
He said tourists who visited WA came to Margaret River, for example, because of its reputation for excellent food and wine. And they were willing to pay a premium for the region’s products.
The strategy aims to create a strong emotional attachment to a particular food or wine with tourists. Then, the theory goes, upon their return home they will seek the goods from their local suppliers, who in turn will look to WA to source the products.
The growth of the industry has also helped strengthen the economy through the creation of jobs.
Figures taken from the Department of Industry and Resources showed that in 2001-02 the food processing industry directly employed more than 14,000 people, and indirectly created more than 63,000 jobs.
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