Skip to main content
Growers Trade insights and updates during COVID-19

Trade insights and updates during COVID-19

Hort Innovation's international trade hub is here to deliver essential information and insights to the Australian horticulture sector as we progress through and beyond the global COVID-19 situation

With COVID-19 creating disruption on a global scale, the virus has and will continue to have an impact on international trade. During this time, Hort Innovation’s international trade team is continuing to gather information and insights - using them to adjust international marketing and engagement activities, and also bringing them together in this international trade hub for all industry participants.

This resource has been designed to capture the vast amount of information that is in circulation and make it available in one simple location. Scroll down to see what’s available, or jump straight to the information you want with these links:

Hort Innovation is also working to develop consumer insight reports specific to fresh fruit, vegetables and nuts, to provide more detailed data and information. Stay tuned for more on this.


Top-level COVID-19 insights

Economic and political insights

Across the world, countries are in various stages of COVID-19 impact and recovery. As of mid-May 2020, China is returning to normal; Thailand has the lowest level of cases across ASEAN countries; South Korea flattened the curve and held elections without going into lockdown; and Japan had to postpone the Olympics – an economic injection the country desperately required. Add the geopolitical issues with China-USA trade wars, Australia-China tension mounting again over the COVID-19 investigation, and the continued activity in the South China Sea, and it’s clear that international relationships and trading impacts will continue to change.

  • McKinsey & Co’s “latest perspectives on the coronavirus outbreak, the twin threats to lives and livelihoods, and how organizations can prepare for the next normal and its COVID-19: Implications for business“.

  • The University of Melbourne’s Asialink resource has a series of articles identifying key economic and political impacts across Asia, and possible future trajectories. Asialink Business also hosts several events, and its current Asia Market Update online seminars provide insights on country-specific trends, issues and potential opportunities for engaging with Asia during COVID-19. Meanwhile, the Asialink Business newsletter (sign up here) provides news from around the region, upcoming events and training programs and resources.
  • PMA A-NZ has collated a list of useful links for growers and exporters for COVID-19 assistance packages including those relating to Austrade, IFAM, and state government initiatives and support. PMA A-NZ has also worked with the team in the US to prepare reports on the opportunities and challenges for produce suppliers looking to do business in Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, UAE, Indonesia and Thailand. While these are not COVID-19-specific, the studies do provide insights for fresh produce suppliers to help understand the markets including topics such as economic growth, market environment, consumer potential, trade and supply chains.

Consumer sentiment

The Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Queensland shares Jade King of Green Valley Fingerlimes, Sunshine Coast story on how they are keeping resilient with their export market closed due to COVID-19

McKinsey & Company has developed this special collection of global surveys around consumer sentiment. Reports include consumers’ optimism on economic recovery; income; household spending; category spend; online shopping; digital activities; and future outlooks and trends. Information is available from the Americas, APAC, Europe and the Middle East and Africa. Content is updated regularly, and there are also summary articles bringing the insights together, such as Consumer sentiment evolves as the next “normal” approaches. 

Meanwhile, Nielsen has a number of free reports, case studies and insights focusing COVID-19 impacts and consumer sentiment and changing buyer behaviours. You can discover them all here. Among the interesting pieces is this report from late March: Asian consumers are rethinking how they eat post COVID-19.

Other information and resources


Business tools and support

There are a range of government initiatives, reports and updates to help businesses through this time.

  • The initially $110 million International Freight Assistance Mechanism (IFAM) was launched to assist Australia’s agricultural and fisheries sector in exporting their high-quality produce into key overseas markets. On 3 July, the Australian Government committed an additional $241.9 million to continue the International Freight Assistance Mechanism (IFAM), helping keep international freight routes and flights operating until the end of the year. The new funding will keep high-value, time sensitive and perishable exports and vital imports, such as medical supplies and other essential items, flowing as we continue the economic recovery from the COVID-19 crisis. It will also re-establish domestic connections for producers and growers in regional and rural areas that rely on airfreight to get their products to customers. Find out more and apply for an IFAM grant here.
  • Australian Government - Export Market Development Grants (Austrade, 2020-21 Financial Year) The Export Market Development Grants (EMDG) scheme is a key Australian Government financial assistance program for aspiring and current exporters. Administered by Austrade, the scheme supports a wide range of industries. Online applications are now open and close (AEDT) 30 November 2020, or you can use an approved EMDG Quality Incentive Program (QIP) Consultant who can lodge a claim on your behalf until midnight Australian Eastern Daylight Time (AEDT) 2 March 2021.
  • Austrade has 1100 staff committed to helping businesses through COVID-19 challenges and a dedicated webpage, COVID-19: Support for Australian businesses, which provides country updates, support, and webinar information.
  • Food Innovation Australia (FIAL) Virtual Meet the Buyer Overview published 31 July 2020, the FIAL’s Virtual Meet the Buyer events provide export-ready Australian food and agribusinesses the opportunity to secure a one-to-one virtual meeting with interested buyers in key markets (i.e. China, ASEAN, Middle East, UK etc) around the globe. Virtual Meet the Buyer is made possible by FIAL’s Australian Food Catalogue. A short video on ‘how it works’ here.
  • The Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment  has a Coronavirus (COVID-19) advice page which provides tools and reports covering topics such as food security and exporting.


Upcoming webinars:

  • Austrade Free Trade Agreement (FTA) Information Seminars (Various Aug-Oct 2020) Attend Austrade’s digital FTA information seminars to hear directly from experts and experienced exporters on how Australia’s FTAs can benefit you. Join us for a new 12 part webcast series targeted at Australian exporters and businesses looking to export.

    • 2 Sept 2020 — Innovating Export Channels: Digital Platforms, Social Media Tools and e-Commerce
      (Registrations open 24 August)
    • 16 Sept 2020 — Supply Chain Fundamentals (Registrations open 7 September)
    • 30 Sept 2020 — Is your business dependent on one market? Multi-market opportunities across ASEAN (Registrations open 21 September).

Austrade, state government, business councils and Asialink Business are among those hosting free COVID-19 webinars. 

Past webinars:

Meanwhile, PMA A-NZ has launched its State of the Industry Report 2020 via a webinar and panel discussion, including a look at supply chain inefficiencies and opportunities, future consumer trends and drivers that are shaping the industry, and insights into how COVID-19 has accelerated and re-prioritised these trends. Download the report here.

Country updates

Click the below menus to discover the latest updates brought together by the Hort Innovation international trade team.

For Austrade’s COVID-19 updates to other markets/regions (i.e. the Middle East, North Africa, New Zealand, Latin America etc) you can find them here at latest insights from Austrade.

General market updates for China

China is re-opening, but consumer sentiment and buyer behaviour is changing. Health and wellbeing are now key for the younger demographic, and for the first time consumers are looking for recipes to cook at home – a trend that seems to be continuing. Digital and e-commerce continues to expand, and it is going beyond Tier 1 cities. 

China was on its way to recovery until an outbreak of COVID-19 infections at Beijing’s largest wholesale market, Xinfadi. Reports indicate the virus was found on a chopping board used by a distributor selling imported salmon. There is absolutely no evidence the virus can spread through food, however according to China Skinny, consumers are talking about the risks of contracting the virus from imported food.

Articles of note:

  • How Branding is Evolving in China. There’s nothing quite like a global pandemic to test the value of a brand. Some brands have increased in value by virtue of their category; others have become more valuable by adapting swiftly to changing consumption priorities, differing usage occasions, and shifting customer journeys. Yet in this untravelled COVID-19-influenced world, the underlying trust and connection that consumers have in brands has never been more important.
  • The AustCham COVID-19 Impact Report surveyed members of the Australia-China business community as part of our ongoing Flash Survey Series to better understand the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Australian business, especially in China. Responses from 87 businesses were received over the 5-16 June period. You can read the survey here.
  • The International Monetary Fund has reported that China will be one of the few countries to see economic growth in 2020 (article here, collated by China Skinny).
  • Who's winning in the China e-commerce boom? According to Daxue Consulting, China, e-commerce revenue in the F&B segment is projected to reach more than US$140 billion in 2020, compared to just over US$96 billion the previous year. Check out who the winners are, and new trends emerging. 

Other articles and sources of interest:

  • AUSCHAM’s ‘The Doing Business in China Report published in Nov 2018 is a critical tool for the chamber as it helps Australian businesses understand the opportunities and challenges facing companies in China. This report highlights the present and expected future benefits of the still young China-Australia Free Trade Agreement with Australian businesses indicating real optimism about its impact. While the generally agreed upon difficulty-of-doing-business remains the Achilles’ heel for many an Australian trade venture in China, this survey can help reflect and uncover some of the frustrations and obstacles facing Australian businesses in China.
  • Austrade’s COVID-19: China update for Australian exporters page provides frequently updated content on general news around the number of cases and impacts to key industries including agribusiness and food, and logistics, retail, e-commerce and supply chain.

Taste Australia updates for China 

The Taste Australia citrus marketing campaign will begin early July, as product starts arriving in the country. Retailers are eager to undertake marketing activities to promote this season's fruit. In-store activations will be complemented by e-commerce promotions, social media campaigns including the use of key opinion leaders and live-streaming, and e-commerce.  

The Taste Australia table grape promotion is underway in China, with retail chains remaining open as they did all through COVID-19 and with sampling and in-store promotions remaining as planned. Consumers are focused on their health and wellbeing, which has provided more opportunities to tell Australian stories combined with the nutritional benefits of table grapes. 

Challenges are coming from current wholesale table grape prices, which have dropped by 30 to 50 per cent depending on the variety.

According to Guangzhou Jiangnan and Vegetable Wholesale Market, it's estimated that there are more than 100 containers of grapes from different countries kept in cold storage. While experienced and larger importers have been able to weather losses, smaller ones are finding it hard to survive and have chosen not to take any stock. Previously Australian table grape prices have been a third higher than Chilean grapes, but this season there is little difference.

While prices are down, intel also indicates that retail prices for imported fruit is high. There seems to be a disparity of what is happening on the wholesale/distribution side of things and what is happening at retail. Not being in-country to check claims on product or to resolve issues is also challenging for exporters.

High-end, new supermarkets where consumers are less price sensitive are achieving higher sales. Other supermarket chains, such as Aeon, have dropped the price around 30 per cent to attract customers.

General market update for Hong Kong

Hong Kong has had a tumultuous time over the past 12 months. With China-USA trade wars and social unrest, COVID-19 gave an economy that was already in recession another hit. The government implemented several measures to support businesses and safeguard jobs in 2019, and has committed a further US$36 billion (approx. or around 10 per cent of GDP) to help offset the economic fallout from COVID-19.

With initial success with keeping cases low in Hong Kong – and perhaps some lessons learned from the SARS pandemic in 2003 – the public are still on high alert due to the proximity of mainland China and fears there may be a second wave of infection.

Some useful links:

General market update for Indonesia

The impact COVID-19 is having on Indonesia is a similar story to the effects being felt across the region. The government has introduced stimulus packages, consumer confidence is down, and Australian fruit imports have declined. The latter can also be attributed to the processing of import permits, which led to a halt in table grape exports in January and February after some $7.38 million was exported over the same period in 2019 (ABS 2020).

According to the ABARES report Agricultural trade implications of COVID-19 impacts on Indonesia, COVID-19 is impacting on Jakarta and other major cities, with job losses and business restrictions affecting the economy and demand for food.

Some useful links:

Also of note, Indonesia’s government has applied several measures to restrict movement and reduce gatherings, which are outlined in the following media updates:

  • Government announced restrictions on ‘mudik’ -  the annual movement from citizens in Indonesia’s big cities to their hometowns, which is traditionally practiced annually during the Idul Fitri festivities. More here.

  • Domestic passenger air and sea travel restricted until early June 2020, however this does not apply to essential logistics services. More here.  

  • Jakarta shopping malls and restaurants close their premises  with limited services to cater for take-away or delivery orders. More here.  

  • Several supermarkets remain open with reduced operating hours. Many retailers are moving online to sustain their business and service their customers. More here. 


General market update for Japan

Coronavirus hit Japan in late January. The country soon saw the postponing of the the Olympics, more than 700 cases onboard the Diamond Princess and within the industry, the cancellation of the regions’ largest food and beverage trade show, Foodex Japan.

Some useful links:


Taste Australia updates for Japan

26 June update

The Taste Australia citrus marketing campaign will begin in July, with social media activities focusing on key opinion leaders and influencers to help educate consumers about health, nutrition and usage ideas. In-store activations will commence around the key holiday periods of July and August, supported through e-commerce promotions.

25 May update

Despite the early infiltration of COVID-19 into Japan, the virus was slow to spread and consequently the government was slow to enact any restrictions on the movement of people, or the economy. ​

On Thursday 16 March, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced a nation-wide state of emergency for Japan after seeing the country’s coronavirus outbreak worsen. This remained until 25 May, therefore overshadowing the country's ‘Golden Week’ holiday season – a collection of four national holidays within seven days. In combination with well-placed weekends, the Golden Week becomes one of Japan's three busiest holiday seasons – usually a prime period to implement retail marketing activity.

The COVID-19 outbreak has also seen the 2020 Tokyo Olympics cancelled, schools closing their doors, non-essential workplaces such as restaurants, bars and cafes close, and several changes to consumer behaviour including an increase in people wearing face masks and a spike in panic buying. People were advised to stay home unless necessary to leave for essential items. ​

In terms of the retail landscape, supermarkets remained open, although restrictions on people inside at any one time have been enforced. In-store sampling programs were cancelled and only recently did the Taste Australia program resume this activity with AEON and Sanyone (importers - Kobo Yoke and Hiro).

Given the challenges over the last few months, Taste Australia has sought alternative ways of marketing and promotion, pivoting from offline to online activity through the Taste Australia Facebook and Instagram pages. These were supported by local 'key opinion leaders' curating original content on their own channels and reshared through the Taste Australia pages.

The Taste Australia program for table grapes will finish at the end of June, with the citrus campaign commencing early July.

The impacts of COVID-19 are continuously monitored, and the campaign activities will be adjusted if required.


General market update for Malaysia

The Government of Malaysia has implemented measures to contain the spread of COVID-19, including restricting movement of people, excluding those in essential sectors and for essential travel to purchase food and seek medical attention. The Movement Control Order (MCO) issued in March has now been extended into early June.

With movement restricted, public transport is also limited and only one person per household can travel to purchase essential goods. Supermarkets are only open with strict one-metre social distancing in place, and consumers are moving to online and home delivery. According to the Malaysian Digital Association, key grocery delivery players saw a 600 per cent growth in traffic in the third week of March, compared to earlier in the month before the MCO was in place.  

Demand for agrifood remains high as consumers focus on health and nutrition. However consumer confidence is low and purchasing power is weaking with people are losing their jobs and businesses, GDP is declining, and with the country generally having limited savings and minimal social security. This will impact on the ability to purchase more premium imported products.

For more, Austrade’s COVID-19: ASEAN region update for Australian exporters page provides frequently updated content on general news around the number of cases and impacts to key industries including agribusiness and food, and logistics, retail, e-commerce and supply chain.


General market update for The Philippines

The initial Manila lockdown was one of the strictest in the ASEAN region and only allowed essential services to operate. There was no public transportation or mobility allowed, with checkpoints across cities and provinces. People had to stay at home and permits were issued for one person per household to shop for groceries or essential services – often only once a week.

Since then, modified restrictions or 'Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine' is now in force and many businesses are preparing to head back to work. Like Australia, it will be a staggered return and most likely only at a 50 per cent capacity to start.

The transport system has re-opened and the Metro saw an influx as people started to leave their homes. Malls are partially open along with other establishments. The general sentiment is a mixture of anxiety and fear, but people are on the move.

For more, Austrade’s COVID-19: ASEAN region update for Australian exporters page provides frequently updated content on general news around the number of cases and impacts to key industries including agribusiness and food, and logistics, retail, e-commerce and supply chain.


Taste Australia updates for The Philippines 

26 June update

The Taste Australia table grape program is wrapping up, with the last online promotion to finish on 5 July, while in-store displays will continue throughout the month.

Meanwhile the Taste Australia citrus marketing campaign will commence over the coming weeks. Activities here will include in-store activations, e-commerce promotions and social media campaigns using key opinion leaders to focus on nutrition and health and wellness messages.

25 May update

In a survey undertaken by the Internet and Mobile Marketing Association of The Philippines in April, just over 70 per cent of Filipinos said that COVID19 will impact their household spending, but they are looking for solutions to boost their health and wellness.

Based on this information, the Taste Australia program for the citrus industry will need to focus on attracting consumers to purchase by reinforcing the health and immunity messages associated with citrus fruits. Consumers are also heading online more frequently to purchase, and with the added consideration that cold storage in homes is limited, the campaign will focus on e-commerce and the everyday ‘relatability’ – with multiple touch points encouraging consumers to purchase more frequently.

Congestions at the ports and limited people working at the docks due to restrictions may see the promotions expanding out from Manilla to other regions such as Cebu and Davao, where the ports are less congested and restrictions are not as tight.

Meanwhile, Taste Australia table grape retail activities are still taking place at Rustans, Shopwise, Marketplace and Robinsons, supported by social media campaigns. 'Key opinion leaders' and partnerships with e-commerce businesses are driving online sales.

Key learnings will be used to build the citrus promotions in the coming months.

General market update for Singapore

Singapore opens market in a three-phased approach (, 28 May 2020)

The Multi-Ministry Taskforce announced on 19 May 2020 that Singapore will exit the Circuit Breaker when it ends on 1 June 2020 and embark on a three-phased approach to resume activities safely. Here’s what you need to know about the three phases.

General market update for South Korea

South Korea has been praised for its innovation and ability to respond to the COVID-19 crisis, but even with an economic stimulus package of around $200 billion and a quick recovery, GDP is expected to contract around five per cent.

Some useful links:

  • Austrade’s COVID-19: North East Asia update for Australian exporters page provides frequently updated content on general news around the number of cases and impacts to key industries including agribusiness and food, and logistics, retail, e-commerce and supply chain

  • Survey: Korean consumer sentiment during the coronavirus crisis is frequently updated by McKinsey & Company

  • AustChamKorea (the Australian Chamber of Commerce in Korea) is providing situational updates and announcements from the Australian and Korean governments around COVID-19 as well as a number of useful resources and tools here 

  • This article by Asialink, from The University of Melbourne, looks into President Moon Jae-in’s response to COVID using technology and the country’s economic and political outlook.


General market update for Thailand

Austrade’s COVID-19: ASEAN region update for Australian exporters page provides frequently updated content on general news around the number of cases and impacts to key industries including agribusiness and food, and logistics, retail, e-commerce and supply chain.

Meanwhile, this article by James Wise, former Australian Ambassador to Thailand, in partnership with Asialink, The University of Melbourne outlines how Thailand averted a COVID disaster and the impact on its economy and politics.


Taste Australia updates for Thailand 

26 June update

The final Taste Australia marketing activities for the table grape season were set to conclude at the end of June. Retail activities have been taking place at Villa Market JP (Villa Supermarket), Big C Supercenter (Big C), Rimping Supermarket (Chaing-Mai) and Makro.

25 May update

The table grape season launch in Thailand started with a Taste Australia trade promotional seminar held in February. The industry also had the opportunity to highlight Taste Australia and Australian Grapes when our Ambassador met with Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on 7 May to discuss a range of bilateral issues including both countries' response to COVID-19. You can read more in this article from Pattaya Mail.

The Taste Australia retail program continues until the end of June, with multiple retailer partners including Top, Makro and Tesco still stocking Aussie grapes.  

General market update for Vietnam

The demand on online shopping is increasing during this challenging time and therefore, most of the largest supermarkets in Vietnam are promoting sales through e-commerce channels. According to this article in the Hanoi Times, sales from online segment of some big supermarkets in Vietnam increased 30 to 40 per cent during national holidays (30 April – 1 May) for essential and fresh products, including fruits.

For more, Austrade’s COVID-19: ASEAN region update for Australian exporters page provides frequently updated content on general news around the number of cases and impacts to key industries including agribusiness and food, and logistics, retail, e-commerce and supply chain.


Taste Australia update for Vietnam (July)

The Taste Australia citrus marketing campaign is beginning in July, with social media activities supported by key opinion leaders and influencers, plus in-store activations. The focus will be on consumer education around health benefits and telling the Australian story – including looking at why Australian citrus, grower stories and provenance.