Fresh approaches to export more perishable foods to Asia

Published:28 March 2019

Clockwise from top left are workshop participants Dr Azad Rahman, Dr Ben Lyons, Dr Delwar Akbar, Professor John Rolfe, Dr Mathew McDougall and Jenny Van de Meeberg.

A fresh collaboration hopes to open doors to export more perishable foods from Northern Australia to Asia by air.

Stakeholders have decided to initially focus on lychee, mango and avocado crops to create new supply chains, assess new processing technologies and pave the way for another seven key perishable commodities.

While mainland China is a key focus, the efforts will extend to Hong Kong, Singapore, Korea, Japan and a range of other countries.

Lessons learned in Queensland – which has many small and medium producers – are expected to help inform efforts in the Northern Territory and Western Australia, even though they have larger enterprises.

Eight CQUniversity researchers are working with farmers, industry leaders, regional development organisations, export and marketing specialists and all levels of government to feed into national policy, which in turn will inform and support new export opportunities.

“In some cases, it may be necessary for smaller producers to combine their efforts to provide a large supply for particular markets,” says CQUni project leader Dr Delwar Akbar.

Dr Akbar said there would be distinct export models for the various commodities, with a few having similarities.

“We’ve just had a major workshop in Rockhampton to discuss a framework for collaboration and now are planning another workshop overseas, possibly in China, before we finalise our collaboration models.”

Guest speakers at the recent Rockhampton workshop included Professor Allan Dale (JCU Tropical Regional Development), Dr Ben Lyons (Director, Rural Economies Centre of Excellence), Dr Mathew McDougall (CEO, Reach China) and Jenny Van de Meeberg (Trade Manager, Hort Innovation).

The ‘Exporting Perishable Commodities to Asia’ project is funded by the Cooperative Research Centre for Developing Northern Australia (CRCNA), with the support of project participants CQUniversity, Rockhampton Regional Council, Growcom, Queensland’s DAF (Agriculture and Fisheries) and DSD (State Development) departments, Passionfruit Australia and Tropical Pines Ltd.

The project will also communicate with Austrade, Trade and Investment Queensland, and relevant government departments in the Northern Territory and Western Australia.

Dr Akbar said the project was building on a $10 000 CQUni-funded scoping study which has already identified knowledge gaps in the stages of processing, marketing, transport and exports.

“We know what we are growing but we also need to involve the other stages in the supply chain,” he says.