Australia’s onion industry is working on a five-year export market development plan, with Asia and the Middle East key targets.
The move comes amid incidents of oversupply in the domestic market and a steady decline in shipments to Europe.
“Through an industry funded project, we will conduct in-market trade research in high prospect markets to identify opportunities for product differentiation or customisation,” explained Peter Shadbolt, chairman of peak industry body Onions Australia.
“We will also support exporters to build capability and capacity to understand and service the emerging markets of Asia and the Middle East and look to collaborate more with the vegetable industry on in-bound and out-bound trade missions and trade shows.”
Shadbolt said Australia had a “seasonal advantage” over northern hemisphere suppliers when it came to servicing Asia and the Middle East, hence the reason why these have been identified as target markets by the Australian industry.
He said long-term prospects look particularly good for Australian onions in Singapore, Malaysia, Japan, Qatar and Bahrain, although this is heavily dependent on the Australian dollar staying within the “current favourable range.”
Due to high production and export costs, the onion industry, like many of its Australian counterparts, knows it can only be competitive in niche markets where a segment is prepared to pay a premium, based on product integrity and a seasonal window advantage.
Therefore, to ensure a viable long-term export avenue is created, the work being done on the export market development plan will help prepare the industry for a time when exchange rates may be less favourable.
“The industry must work on reducing costs at every level of the supply chain by whatever means possible, while at the same time developing differentiated products that suit the needs of a niche market segment in a particular export market, for which they are prepared to pay a premium,” Shadbolt added.
“If Australia is to compete in the longer term, it must look to develop products customised to the opportunities in niche markets through variety selection, growing methods, quality specifications or packaging.”
Read the full version of this article in the February edition of Asiafruit.