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Overseas trade tour takeaways and insights

Publication date: 5 November 2023

Hort Innovation international trade manager Mimi Doan is responsible for a portfolio of industry-specific trade development programs that support the horticulture sector in achieving its export aspirations.

In September this year, Mimi had the opportunity to join a couple of overseas in-market visits to gain a deeper understanding of what international consumers are looking for when it comes to their fruit, nut and vegetables, and how Australian exporting industries can meet their needs and desires.

Mimi’s learnings and insights will inform and shape ongoing and future investments in the international trade development space, ensuring a strategic and industry-centric approach.


Industry: Berries

Key facts and figures about Singapore and Berries:

  • Singapore’s significance: In 2022/23, Singapore was the 6th largest export market for Australian horticulture exports by value, at $126 million AUD.
  • Berries in Demand: In the same period, Singapore emerged as the 2nd largest market for berries with 24 per cent of all Australian berry exports going to Singapore.
  • Import dependency: A noteworthy aspect of Singapore’s food and beverage landscape is its heavy reliance on imports, with 90% of its food and beverage products coming from external sources.
  • Australian product demand: Singapore has a strong appetite for Australian produce, marked by high awareness, familiarity and consistent demand for Australian products.
  • Accessible market: Singaproe is an accessible market for Australian exporters, boasting low barriers to trade, free trade agreement, and a streamlined regulatory framework that simplifies market entry and operations. 

Who was there: Representatives from Berries Australia, berry exporters, strawberry and blueberry growers.

What activities took place: Briefings from Austrade, site visit at Pasir Panjang Wholesale Centre hosted by Singapore Fruits & Vegetables Importers & Exporters Association, retail site visit at Great World City, visit to a distribution and packing facility at Banchoon Marketing, retail site visit to NTUC Fairprice Supermarket, and a site visit to Tiong Bahru Wet Market.

What were the key takeaways:

  • Blueberries and strawberries are a popular and expanding category in Singapore. Australian and South African produce is prevalent, with a strong preference for sweeter fruit.
  • There were a mix of aspiring and established exporters on the study tour.  Singapore stands as the ideal gateway for aspiring exporters. What sets Singapore apart is its lower regulatory barriers, enabling exporters to enter with more ease, and its strategic geographical proximity to Australia.
  • Market visits and study tours are vital for exporters and aspiring exporters, offering valuable insights into local demand, consumer preferences, competition, and evolving market trends. These experiences support product adaptation to meet local expectations, foster key relationships with local stakeholders, and importantly, offer a lower-risk method to gauge initial demand. Additionally, they provide essential cultural and market understanding, a crucial element for export success.

Find out more about the berry industry’s export development program here. The levy-funded program proactively manages market access and trade development for the berry industries so that an increasing volume of product can be exported, at sustainable prices.


Industry: All exporting horticultural industries

Key fact about Hong Kong: Hong Kong stands as the 3rd largest market for Australian horticultural exports by value at $112 million AUD, accounting for seven per cent of Australia's total exports.  

Who was there: Austrade, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF), Department of Agriculture and Fisheries Queensland (DAFQ), Australian Exporters, Hong Kong importers.

What activities took place: Asia Fruit Logistica (AFL) is the industry’s flagship tradeshow, which offers participants opportunity to promote their businesses, make new top-level trade contacts and gather essential market information on every aspect of the fresh produce trade throughout Asia.

What were the key takeaways:

  • Open import market: Hong Kong imports nearly all its fresh produce. While the majority comes from neighbouring China, a huge variety of markets ship and air freight fresh produce there. It is an open market with few barriers to entry.
  • Macro shifts impact fresh produce consumption: Macro shifts are impacting how people consume fresh produce. Younger generations are swapping in home sharing consumption of fruits, for on-the-go convenience. They are increasingly purchasing from supermarkets over wet markets.
  • Presentation matters: Fruits especially are increasingly packaged and marketed to attract consumers. Prepacks are popular and experts report that consumers care more for the aesthetics of the fresh produce versus the origin.
  • A market for gifting: Consumers are open to purchasing premium produce, whether to enjoy exceptional quality, unusual varieties or off-season produce. There is a strong culture of gifting to celebrate holidays and festivals.
  • Off-season premium Aussie produce: the availability of Australian off-season produce make it an attractive import prospect. Aussie produce has a strong reputation and proven history of quality produce. However, competing on price could remain a challenge.


Industry: Citrus

Key facts and figures:

  • Impressive citrus exports: In 2022/23, citrus exports to Vietnam surged to $36.4 million, marking an exceptional 102% growth compared to the preceding year.
  • Steady growth trend: Over the span of 2019 to 2023, the citrus export sector into Vietnam maintained a robust and consistent growth trajectory, boasting a 30% compound annual growth rate (CAGR).

Who was there: Austrade, Ag Counsellor, Exporter, grower.

What activities took place: Visit to Long Bien market, Dong Xuan market, Klever Fruit store, F5 Fruit store, Australian embassy, Aeon Mall Long Bien, Winmart Thang Long, Thuy Anh Fruit.

What were the key takeaways:

  • Positive Australian image: Australia enjoys a favourable image and positive reputation in Vietnam. This positive perception can be leveraged by the Australian fresh produce industry to establish trust and strengthen brand recognition.
  • Gift-giving culture and packaging: In Vietnam, the act of gifting imported fruits is common. The importance of packaging cannot be overstated, as it plays a pivotal role in the presentation and the perceived value of the product. Attention to appealing and culturally suitable packaging may enhance export performance.
  • Rise of livestream marking: Livestreaming has become a powerful marketing tool in Vietnam, rapidly gaining popularity and transforming the way businesses engage with customers.
  • Growing health consciousness: As health consciousness sweeps across Vietnam, the fresh produce category is expanding.
  • Exclusive Southern Hemisphere exporter: Currently Australian citrus stands as the sole trading partner with market access from the southern hemisphere with significant export volumes.

Find out more about the citrus industry’s export development program here. The levy-funded program helps the Australian citrus industry continue its strong presence in the global market, remaining competitive and in a place to reliably supply product that satisfies international requirements. It has three focus areas: maintaining and improving market access, delivering market information, and quality improvement.


Industry: Summerfruit

Key facts and figures:

  • Export volume: After the Australian Summerfruit industry regained market access in 2021, the industy achieved exports worth $825,331 in the 2020/21 season.
  • Export growth: Exports increased by 110% from 2021 to 2022 and volumes are anticipated to increase on a positive trajectory.

Who else was there: Summerfruit Australia Export manager Charlotte Brunt, and DFAT Summerfruit, Aushub In-Market Representative, Thu Nguyen.

What activities took place: This year will be the summerfruit industry’s second full season of exporting to Vietnam after market access was granted in 2021. In light of that, the Ho Chi Minh visit was focused on:

  • Understanding supply chain challenges in Vietnam that may impact fresh summerfruit imports.
  • Discussing logistics for expanding capacity in coming year
  • Discussing potential cooperation between local distributors/retailers with the Australian exporters/growers, and
  • Discussing how to support the local partners so that the supply chain is strong and healthy.

What were the key takeaways:

  • Low consumer awareness of Summerfruit products in Vietnam: A significant proportion of consumers may not be familiar with the types of summerfruit, what the health benefits are and how they should be handled and stored. This represents an opportunity for Summerfruit exporters to educate and promote the category to Vietnamese consumer.
  • Supply chain challenges and bottlenecks: Navigating the Vietnamese supply chain can be complex, with bottlenecks and logistical hurdles impacting the timely delivery and quality of produce. It's essential for exporters to understand and address these challenges.
  • Premiumisation Through Exclusive Distribution: An effective strategy adopted by other fresh produce brands. By establishing exclusive distribution channels, these brands control the narrative and presentation of their products, positioning them as premium, high-quality choices that stand out in the market.
  • In-Market Representation's Significance: The presence of dedicated in-market representation is important in Vietnam. Local partners or representatives can facilitate smoother interactions and engagement with distributors, retailers, and consumers.
  • Softening economy: Vietnam’s GDP growth has softened given the challenging global economic environment. This shift has the potential to influence consumer spending patterns and preferences.

Find out more about the summerfruit industry’s export development program here. The levy-funded program supports the summerfruit industry to build exporter capability to ensure they understand the market, supply chain and consumer/trade expectations.