Horticulture

Food quality wins race

By Country News

Meeting the expectations of consumers who are increasingly discerning about the quality of the fresh produce they purchase is key to the ongoing competitiveness of Australia’s horticulture industry, ABARES Outlook was told.

ABARES senior economist Caroline Gunning-Trant said Australian horticultural producers operated in a high-cost environment.

‘‘Although we are not always able to compete on price, we can compete on quality, reliability and safety, which are food qualities in high demand in our export markets and which distinguishes us from a number of our competitors,’’ Dr Gunning-Trant said.

‘‘Exports of fresh horticultural produce were worth more than $2billion in 2016/17, with strong growth in fruit and nut exports over the past five years.

‘‘Asian import demand for high-quality fresh produce, a relatively low exchange rate and improved market access have all supported Australia’s recent export growth.’’

Costa Group grape and citrus general manager Elliot Jones said understanding consumers’ preferences and expectations about the food they ate were key to delivering product to our export markets.

‘‘China is a fast-growing market where consumers are increasingly brand and quality conscious. High-quality imported produce continues to be a status item in Asian markets,’’ Mr Jones said.

‘‘But to create sustainable markets for our fresh produce, it is important for industry to concentrate on building critical mass in core markets.

‘‘Maintaining and improving market access protocols will be critical to the industry’s success.

‘‘Our brand and quality consistency will be key to sustaining those markets.’’

For South Australian citrus and grape grower Ryan Arnold, technology has become key to understanding what consumers want.

‘‘Technology provides many opportunities to gain insight into customers’ thoughts, which allows us to tweak production to grow products that meet their expectations,’’ he said.

‘‘Social media platforms connect us to customers and allow us to display the care taken to grow our produce. They also allow consumers to engage in dialogue with us.

‘‘This has allowed us to evolve our product range and market to specific audiences.’’