Seeking trade opportunities

By Country News

A Shepparton delegation has been in China and Indonesia to showcase the region’s fruit product and boost trade opportunities.

The four-person delegation, including City of Greater Shepparton Mayor Kim O’Keeffe, local orchardist Peter Hall and council staff, visited the Asian countries recently with the hope of increasing export potential to China and attracting investment to Shepparton.

Ahead of the visit, Cr O’Keeffe took to social media to outline the goals of the 11-day trip, which included trade and business stops in ‘‘friendship city’’ Jintan, Jakarta and Hong Kong.

The Hong Kong leg in particular involved a Greater Shepparton stall being hosted at a highly-regarded fruit expo.

‘‘We have some incredible meetings organised over those 11 days. We’ll be lobbying for investment and opportunity for our growers,’’ Cr O’Keeffe said before the visit.

‘‘We’ve already got some conversations that have started, so we’ll be continuing those.’’

Council chief executive Peter Harriott said the delegation had opted to play a larger role at the Hong Kong Fruit Logistica Expo this year, ‘‘to support many of our local growers that go to this event’’.

‘‘We want to see what investment opportunities are available to come back this way,’’ Mr Harriott said when asked about whether opportunities existed for expanded trade with Indonesia.

‘‘We want to export more product to Asia.

‘‘Indonesia is growing at an incredible rate ... Obviously it’s a market that’s creating large demand.’’

Mr Harriott said the council would aim to sit down with various local growers on the delegation’s return to debrief and ‘‘download’’.

Committee for Greater Shepparton chief executive Sam Birrell said it was vital for the city to be ‘‘engaging with our biggest trading partners’’.

‘‘Having said that, I think it’s incumbent upon the whole region, not just ... the community’s leadership, to develop a strategic approach to following up on opportunities that come out of these delegations,’’ Mr Birrell said.

He stressed the importance of well-established relationships, but also telling a broader story ‘‘about who we are ... and what our competitive advantage is’’.

‘‘You’ve got to develop long-term relationships and trust,’’ he said.

The council had earlier this year put the call out for a local grower to join the delegation to help find business and export opportunities and represent the industry at the expo.

It was at the time hopeful the visit could include new supply agreements being reached.

Councillors in March signed off on Cr O’Keeffe joining the delegation to flesh out further trade channels, which it expected would yield benefits of more than the $36000 cost.

It would be remiss not to follow up on the opportunities possible, councillors said at the time.

The council’s sustainable development director Geraldine Christou — also on the delegation — had this year said bringing a grower provided an opportunity for them to be involved directly in discussions with potential clients, including taking part in negotiations and reaching agreements while there.