Leading the way
Newly appointed chief executive of the Australian Horticultural Exporters’ and Importers’ Association (AHEIA), Lesley Shield, is eager to see the next generation take up career opportunities in the horticulture industry.
Congratulations on being appointed chief executive of AHEIA. Tell us about the role and your ambitions?
Lesley Shield: The Australian Horticultural Exporters’ and Importers’ Industry Association advocates with foreign and domestic government departments along with industry stakeholders on behalf of Australian fresh produce exporters and importers. Issues we cover can include quarantine and trade protocols, service delivery from DAWE and costs surrounding those services or just keeping members informed about overseas markets and their competition. Part of my job description is to increase the AHEIA’s membership, and I believe strong communication with our members could be the key to this.
How did you get involved in the fresh produce industry, and what other roles have you held previously?
LS: I initially began working in the Brisbane Market in administration in the late ‘70s (in those days, it was called a Girl Friday). The company I worked for was exporting and importing to and from New Zealand.
I did the documentation and even helped with the loading of airfreight pallets. That company sold out to another importer/exporter and I moved to the new company doing their documentation and assisting with inspections.
I was then approached to create an export division for a market wholesale company, and I managed the export division until I moved to Asia with my husband where I lived for 12 years in Hong Kong, Thailand and Shanghai. Whilst in Thailand, I helped manage an Active Selling Programme in supermarkets. When I returned from Asia, I was approached to be general manager of a New Zealand export company. I was based in Brisbane, managing their New Zealand exports to Australia and Asia.
What do you believe poses the biggest challenge for Australia’s horticulture industry in the future?
LS: Australia is in the unenviable position of being a high-cost supplier compared to other countries.
Therefore it is imperative industry communicates to the global consumer the advantages of purchasing Australian produce with our superior tasting products being just one of these attributes.
“The horticultural industry has great career opportunities… with the potential to travel the world”
With challenges come opportunities, where is the potential for Australia’s exporters?
LS: Some of the challenges for the Australian industry are to fast-track new markets on the back of FTAs and additionally fine-tune some of the current anomalies that exist within the phytosanitary agreements. For example, some of the harsh cold sterilisation treatments for citrus.
What’s one thing you’d like to change about the industry you work in?
LS: Focusing on encouraging the younger generation to see that the horticultural industry has great career opportunities which encompass many areas, such as technology, farming, agronomy, global marketing as well as the potential to travel the world.
Tell us about your proudest achievement to date.
LS: Probably the Active Selling Programme in Thailand. I saw men and women of all ages, spruiking, sorting, packaging and selling imported products in stores. Most had never done that before and didn’t know how to handle fresh produce. They became confident and proud of their work and at times competitive with each other in a fun way to see who would sell the most of a particular product. Some even decided to use the money from their active selling role to study and moved on to things they had dreamt of doing.
What advice would you give to other women, either already in the industry or looking to enter it?
LS: This industry takes a lot of your time and energy. You need to be prepared for it to be part of your personal life. It can be frustrating but also fulfilling. The fruit industry is a small industry where everyone either knows someone or has heard of someone in the industry. I have always found that most people are willing to help when asked. I have never seen myself as a ‘woman’ in the industry but as a person doing a job.
What’s the best advice you’ve received?
LS: Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today. I have found that every day is different in this industry and time can get away from you.
Author: Chris Komorek, Staff Journalist, Asiafruit and Produce Plus
Original article: Asiafruit magazine
The Australian Horticultural Exporters’ and Importers’ Association (AHEIA) is pleased to announce the appointment of Lesley Shield as CEO from September 2021.
With more than 30 years involvement in the horticultural industry in Australia, New Zealand and Asia, Lesley brings a wealth of experience to the CEO role of AHEIA.
Lesley’s career has encompassed the development and management of successful fresh produce import and export trading operations based in Australia and New Zealand, focusing on the Asian markets.
During the 12 years she spent living in Asia, she took a leading role in the development and execution of the very successful Retail Active Selling Programme which was launched in selected retail stores in Thailand in 2005 and is still operating today.
Lesley has no doubt that her understanding of the supply chain from growers to the export to consumers will assist the Board of AHEIA in providing a strong platform of representation and growth for its members.
Lesley is looking forward to working with AHEIA members, board of directors and Australian government departments, to assist in problem solving and communicating any concerns our members may have regarding their products or markets.
On behalf of the Board, Chairman Joe Saina would like to sincerely thank our outgoing CEO, Dr Andréa Magiafoglou. Andréa held the position of CEO these past three years most of which was during very challenging times. We acknowledge what she has achieved both at a member level, and AHEIA organisational level. Andréa’s high-level representation has put our association in a good stead with industry stakeholders and regulators.
Country Recognition Agreement renewal arrives three days prior to expiry, providing relief to Australia’s citrus exporters
Australia’s Country Recognition Agreement (CRA) with Indonesia, which recognises Australia’s food safety systems for fresh food of plant origin, has officially been renewed.
Due to expire on 27 April 2021, the renewal provides relief for a number of Australian exporters, most notably citrus, with one exporter set to send its first shipment of the season in the coming week.
The negotiations between Australia and Indonesia were lengthy and faced a number of concerning delays, some believed to be stemming from Covid-19. Australia’s Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (DAWE) submitted an application to renew its CRA with Indonesia on 16 October 2020.
Subsequent information requested by Indonesia was then provided in November 2020 and March 2021, with DAWE adding that Indonesia’s Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) had advised an outcome was to be expected before 26 April 2021.
Despite the reassurances provided by Indonesia’s MoA, some Australian exporters remained sceptical the CRA would be renewed in time, given South Africa and Argentina’s CRA with Indonesia had expired due to similar delays in their renewal process.
In 2019/20, Australia exported over 33,000 tonnes of fresh fruit and vegetables to Indonesia, valued at over A$82m.
In a written statement, DAWE said it had sought MoA’s agreement to “establish transitional arrangements to allow trade to continue under the current CRA, should it expire prior to finalising the renewed agreement.”
Neil Barker, managing director of exporter BGP International, praised both George Hughes and Australia’s federal agriculture minister, David Littleproud, for their efforts in securing the CRA renewal.
“George at the Australian Embassy in Jakarta, together with Minister Littleproud must be thanked for supporting Australian farmers in achieving a renewal of the CRA,” said Barker.
“The support given by Indonesian Minister of Agriculture, Syahrul Yasin Limpo, is a wonderful example of the close co-operation existing between Indonesia and Australia,” he added.
Andréa Magiafoglou, chief executive of the Australian Horticultural Exporters and Importers Association (AHIEA), said Indonesia is a valued and significant trading partner for Australian exporters of fresh fruit and vegetables.
"We welcome the opportunity to expand our relationships within Indonesia and continue exporting under this agreement which recognises Australia’s robust food safety systems," said Magiafoglou.
Each CRA is valid for three years following its renewal.
Author: Chris Komorek
Joint media release with:
The Hon Scott Morrison MP, Prime Minister
15 November 2020
Australian farmers and businesses are set to benefit from better export opportunities with the signing of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Agreement between Australia and 14 other Indo-Pacific countries.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the signing of this long-awaited agreement signalled our region’s shared commitment to open trade and investment, despite the challenges of COVID-19.
“Our trade policy is all about supporting Australian jobs, boosting export opportunities and ensuring an open region with even stronger supply chains. RCEP builds on our trade successes and is good news for Australian businesses,” Prime Minister Morrison said.
“With one in five Australian jobs reliant on trade, the RCEP Agreement will be crucial as Australia and the region begin to rebuild from the COVID‑19 pandemic.
“This agreement covers the fastest growing region in the world and, as RCEP economies continue to develop and their middle classes grow, it will open up new doors for Australian farmers, businesses and investors.”
Trade Minister Simon Birmingham said RCEP would be the world’s largest free trade agreement and would improve export opportunities for Australian farmers and businesses, especially in the services sector.
“This deal will further integrate Australian exporters into a booming part of the globe, with RCEP countries making up nearly 30 per cent of world GDP and the world´s population,” Minister Birmingham said.
“RCEP has been driven by the ten ASEAN nations, who collectively constitute Australia’s second largest two-way trading partner and have successfully brought Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea into this regional trading block with them.
“This agreement may have taken eight years to negotiate but it could not have come at a more important time given the scale of global economic and trade uncertainty.
“Economic cooperation of this scale sends a strong signal that our region is committed to the principles of open trade for the post COVID-19 recovery, just as we advanced them during the previous years of strong economic growth.
“Greater openness within our region, as well as the greater integration of value chains and more common rules of origin which this deal delivers, will make it easier for Australian businesses and investors to operate throughout our region, helping Australia to continue to grow our exports.
“There are particular gains for Australian providers within the financial services sector, education, health, engineering and other professional services, who can become better integrated within the region and have more access within RCEP countries.
“Australia is committed to fully ratifying RCEP as soon as possible so Australian farmers, businesses and investors can start to access the benefits of this agreement. It will also be an inclusive agreement, with the door open for others, especially India, to join if and when they are ready.”
Australia will also commit $46 million to provide technical assistance and capacity building to help eligible ASEAN countries implement their RCEP commitments, ensuring RCEP delivers on its full potential.
When finalised, the main benefits for Australia will be:
The 2019/20 trade data for Australian fresh fruit and vegetable exports is now in; with combined fruit and vegetable exports reaching a total of 762,840 tonnes (up 4.1 per cent) valued at $1.84 billion. This result is a record breaker for the seventh consecutive year and was buoyed by strong outcomes for fruit exports at 547,137 tonnes (up 9.5 percent from 2018/19) and helped buffer a 7.4 per cent volume reduction in vegetable exports over the same time period.
Across fresh fruit, China remains the most prominent export market destination by both volume and value (156,372 tonnes; $536.5 million). However, export volume growth has eased from the substantial increases seen in previous years when strong gains in table grape and citrus exports coincided with new and/or improved market access conditions for stonefruit.
Japan has slid into the number two market for Australian fresh fruit exports by both value and volume (59,655 tonnes; $132.6 million), edging out Hong Kong which eased 4 and 4.8 per cent respectively; a reduction contributed by increased direct trade to China. Overall fruit export volumes to Japan increased by 9 per cent during 2019/20, with melon exports continuing to rise since entering the market in 2016. Singapore and Indonesia round out the top 5 markets for Australian fresh fruit exports, with Indonesia recording a 23 per cent decrease in volume driven by challenges with import licensing on table grape exports to this market.
Full year trade results for fresh vegetable exports indicate a 7.4 per cent easing in volume to 215,700 tonnes, however value remained steadier at $290 million; 3 per cent down from the previous year. Singapore remains the leading market by value (at $52.4 million), and second largest by volume after the United Arab Emirates. Of all fresh vegetable exports to Singapore, carrots accounted for around 48 per cent by volume at 13,500 tonnes and remain relatively steady compared to export volumes from previous years. Pumpkins lifted 24 per cent by volume, while broccoli exports to Singapore declined 30 per cent, mainly driven by challenging production conditions in 2019 and Covid-19 supply chain disruptions in 2020. The United Arab Emirates, Australia’s largest fresh vegetable export market by volume remained relatively steady at 36,000 tonnes at $34.2 million. Onions to the UAE lifted to 3,500 tonnes, a 78 per cent increase from 2018/19, with carrots continuing to contribute more than 80 per cent of all Australian fresh vegetable exports to the UAE.
The above trade results for 2019/20 would not be complete without a brief commentary on Covid-19 impacts on fresh horticultural exports. The data outcomes reported above only partly reflect Covid-19 disruptions. Various commodity groups are affected differently, and impacts shift as the landscape changes and seasons progress. As commented on previously, and to restate what is well known within industry, supply chain disruptions globally have created a challenging environment for fresh horticultural exporters and importers. However, a unifying shift towards coordination across horticultural industry bodies, supply chain participants, and Federal and State Governments has placed Australian exporters in good stead to optimise and expand on available opportunities to counter these ongoing challenges. The lessons and solutions we apply today will support and refine how we conduct business tomorrow, and ultimately provide a stronger and more resilient horticultural export industry in years to come.
The Australian Horticultural Exporters’ and Importers’ Association is looking forward to holding the next Industry Forum in early 2021. The Industry Forum is designed to connect members, update industry on the state of the global market and hear directly from Australian Government representatives involved in horticulture trade. Previous years have attracted leading decision-makers involved in Australia’s international fresh produce trade with vibrant discussions covering key issues facing the sector. The Industry Forum is open to members and non-members alike. More information will be provided once details are finalised.
Source: Brisbane Markets – October 2020
A July 1 start date for new export fee price hikes of more than 40 per cent has been scrapped as the Federal Government diverts its attention to COVID-19.
THE introduction of a raft of new export fees and charges for Australia’s fresh produce sector due to come into effect next month have been delayed indefinitely.
The Department of Agriculture had flagged July 1 for the introduction of new export costs for the horticulture industry.
It would have seen an average increase of 44 per cent across all fees and levies, with some charges to increase by 277 per cent.
A Department of Agriculture spokesman said because industry consultation planned for March was unable to go ahead due to COVID-19 restrictions, “we no longer expect changes to the current charges from July 1, 2020. We are monitoring the situation and will provide an update … once the next steps have been determined.”
The Department of Agriculture has been working on a new cost-recovery model for export certification services since 2015 after operating at a multimillion-dollar deficit for a number of years.
However prominent industry bodies, including the Australian Horitcultural Exporters’ and Importers’ Association and AusVeg, have described the proposed model as a step too far, with grievances including an expanded cost recovery base – including $182,000 to subsidise a network of counsellors to assist during trade disruptions – and the disproportionate level of cost recovery comparative to other government departments.
If the proposed model was adopted, 48 per cent of the Department of Agriculture’s costs would be paid for by farmers and exporters, compared to the Department of Trade, where 10 per cent of its costs were funded by industry, or the Department of Industry and Science, where 15 per cent of its costs were paid for by industry.
AHEIA chief executive Andrea Magiafoglou said fruit, vegetable and flower exporters were already grappling with changes wrought by COVID-19, “to introduce high fees at this time would be very unwelcome”.
Source: The Weekly Times
Author: ALEXANDRA LASKIE
The Australian Department of Agriculture’s (DoA) recent suggestion to implement new regulations that will lead to an over 40% increase in export costs for fresh produce has been met with fervent disapproval by the local industry.
18-Mar-2020 By Pearly Neo