WESTERN Australian producers are the target of State and Federal government initiatives aimed at encouraging exports to the evolving consumer markets in Asia and the Middle East.
New levels of affluence and emerging middle classes in Asia and the Middle East are providing niche opportunities for high-quality, low-volume exporters willing to cash in on Western Australia’s reputation as a clean, green, premium food producer.
In particular, niche opportunities exist in the supply of gourmet or specialty produce to the hotel industry, elite business or sporting clubs, or the airline industry for first-class or business-class customers.
The value of processed food exports from WA has risen dramatically in the past 10 years, from $542 million a decade ago to $1.103 billion last financial year.
However, this figure represents only a small proportion of WA’s total exports, which exceed $30 billion.
While the State’s largest single food export is seafood, in particular rock lobster, Austrade Western Australian State manager Jenny Mathews said there were many niche opportunities for WA gourmet producers wanting to export.
Ms Mathews said a recent example was the Malaga-based Lebanese Patisserie, which had signed a deal with Emirates Airlines for flights between Perth and the Middle East. The deal to supply Lebanese pastries could be worth up to $A80,000 a year.
The Lebanese Patisserie was the first client of the TradeStart New Exporter Development Program – a joint initiative by the Federal and State governments.
“With our new exporter program, of the 400 or so companies that we are working with, the largest sector is food and wine,” Ms Mathews said.
“Close to 30 per cent are food and wine [producers].”
While the new exporter program was a general program, the fact that products went directly to market was an added benefit for food and wine exporters, she said.
“Food and wine products do not have a long lead time,” Ms Mathews told WA Business News.
Austrade export adviser Mike Carter said there has been a growing trend in the past 10 years for increased demand for “Western-style” goods in Asia and the Middle East.
“The emergence of large US and European supermarket chains into those markets reflects a change in consumer behaviour,” he said.
“It’s aspirational to be seen shopping in, for example, Tescos and also to be seen sipping coffee in a Dome or Starbucks.
“On the back of these trends we are seeing a growing opportunity for ‘Western-style’ products into South-East Asian markets.
“Several years ago who would have thought about trying to push, for example, gourmet cheeses in South-East Asia?”
Department of Industry and Resources (DoIR) export development manager Michael Dickson said the State Government had employed a “stepped” approach to encourage small and medium potential exporters to target eastern States opportunities before tackling overseas markets.
Mr Dickson said DoIR was working with individual producers, the Australian Quarantine Inspection Service and Austrade to assist new producers enter competitive, and often protected, export markets.
DoIR would lead delegations of Australian companies to various events throughout 2004, he said.
A major promotional event for food and wine is the participation every two years in a range of food-focused trade fairs in Singapore, billed this year as Food and Hotel Asia (FHA) 2004.
Also, in early May, the First International Wine Tourism Conference will be held in Margaret River and will bring together international experts to discuss issues affecting the industry.
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