AUSTRALIAN vegetable growers are kicking substantial export goals with figures showing a 61 per cent increase in value over the past five years.
The Global Trade Atlas figures also reveal that total fresh vegetable exports from Australia have had an average growth rate of 10pc per year.
It’s good news for the vegetable sector despite a recent ANZ Agribusiness report suggests the vegetable industry needs to up its game in order to capitalise on demand from Asia.
Australia’s vegetable exports grew 2pc to $252 million in 2017, with its top markets being Singapore, the United Arab Emirates, Japan, Malaysia and Hong Kong. Carrots, onions and potatoes currently account for over 60pc of total vegetable export value and more than 80pc of vegetable export volume.
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Carrots continued to be the best performing vegetable export in 2017, increasing to 110,000 tonnes at a value of $91 million.
Ausveg has welcomed the figures with national manager for export development, Michael Coote, saying the progress the Australian vegetable industry has made in growing its exports in recent years should not be overshadowed by comparisons with the value of Australian fruit exports, with the vegetable industry well placed to meet its goal of 40pc growth to $315 million in fresh vegetable exports by 2020.
“The Australian vegetable industry is experiencing solid growth in its exports, particularly on the back of strong performing products such as carrots and broccoli to the Middle East and Asia,” Mr Coote said.
“While it is easy to assess the performance of vegetable exports against fruit exports, there are considerations that make comparing these two groups problematic.
“Fruits are a higher value export group than vegetables as they are more seasonal commodities and can command higher prices from importing countries during their seasonal windows.
“Vegetables, on the other hand, are a more consistent annual product group and tend to fill gaps in regions that are not so lucky to have year-round vegetable production like we do with most vegetable commodities in Australia.
A lot of work is also being undertaken to increase market access into more countries, including China and other potentially high value markets.
“Market access is also a contributing factor. A number of different Australian fruits have had success growing their export trade into China, while Australia does not yet have access into this market for most vegetable commodities.”
Upon the release of the ANZ’s “Future of Fresh” report, ANZ head of agribusiness, Mark Bennett, said Australian vegetable exporters have experienced less growth in Asia.
“Traditionally, our vegetable harvest has been dominated by potatoes and tomatoes due to Australian consumer demand, but producers today are actively reconsidering planting and production decisions due to the opportunities to increase exports to Asia,” Mr Bennett said.
But Ausveg’s Mr Coote said Australian vegetables are also lower-priced products that are being grown in a high-cost environment.
He said due to the rising costs of labour, electricity and water, vegetables experience particular vulnerability to fluctuating exchange rates that make it harder for growers to compete in a global market.
“Despite these challenges, the industry has increased its focus on boosting the value and volume of its vegetable exports, with work being undertaken by Ausveg, Hort Innovation and other groups in building the exporting skills of Australian growers and providing opportunities to build relationships with foreign buyers,” he said.
“A lot of work is also being undertaken to increase market access into more countries, including China and other potentially high value markets.”