04 December 2013
In his address to the Rural Press Club of Queensland on November 27th, 2013, Mick Keogh, Australian Farm Institute Executive Director quickly points out the difference between public (and political) opinion and the truth behind the recent trend of portraying Australian agriculture as being “on the cusp of a boom that will rival the pound-a-pound wool boom of the 1950s.”
This bold claim is in relation to the rapidly growing Asian consumer demand for food, coupled with Australia’s close proximity to Asia. But, as Mr Keogh explains, over the last five years, “Australian agriculture has lost market share in all the big five Asian markets – Japan, Korea, China, Indonesia and India.”
He shares a recent trade statistic which “really puts Australia’s agricultural export performance in its true context is the fact that Australia’s fruit exports to Asia were worth around $500 million in 2012-13, while Chile’s – a developing nation located on the far side of the Pacific Ocean – were worth $4.3 billion.”
Below are a few of the factors he raised to highlight what he believes is behind the “insipid export and domestic performance of Australian agriculture”:
Keogh concedes that some of the factors he has discussed cannot be easily addressed, or can only be addressed by individual businesses, or in the case of trade agreements the Australian government. But insists there are some collective actions that can be taken that would deliver benefits to all involved in the sector, and among these is the development of a ‘brand image’ for Australia agriculture, similar to what has already been developed by New Zealand, Canada and the USA.
He shared how critically important it is that as much as possible of Australia’s agricultural produce needs to be positioned at the premium end of Asian and Australian food markets, which are markets in which a product’s quality and freshness are valued, and credence characteristics also become more important.
Adding that, Australian agriculture does have some characteristics that mesh well with what are understood to be the desires and values of fussy, middle and upper-class Asian and Australian consumers.
Some of these characteristics included:
Keogh can see how these could form the basis of a strong national brand image that encompasses all these characteristics and wraps them up in a set of values that would be attractive to consumers in Asia and in Australia.
He understands that developing a brand that encompasses the characteristics of Australian agriculture and meets the wants and desires of consumers in Australia and internationally will not be a simple task. It will require resources and commitment, and it should surprise no-one that both are hard to come by. That does not mean the task is impossible, though.
He goes on to look at the political hurdles of this approach and the idea of this brand requiring a champion to drive the message home both here in Australia and out into the world.
Read Mr Keogh’s full address here