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Name change for Australia’s peak horticultural export-import body

The Australian Horticultural Exporter’s Association (AHEA) has changed its name to reflect the true nature of the organization, following a vote at its annual general meeting (AGM) in Melbourne on August 24.

In a release, the group said it had changed its name to Australian Horticultural Exporters’ and Importers’ Association (AHEIA) to better reflect its bilateral focus, with a rebranding to be rolled out over the coming weeks.

The AHEIA represents 65% of exporters and 75% of importers by value.

During the AGM, members also voted in the existing board of directors, along with two new executive committee directors; Prudence Barker of BGP International Pty Ltd in Melbourne, and David Hooper of Harvest Moon in Tasmania.

AHEIA chairman Joseph Saina welcomed the new directors and thanked the board, CEO Dominic Jenkin and members for their contribution and ongoing commitment to Australia’s AUD$11.3 billion agricultural trade.

Key speakers at the industry forum reflected AHEIA’s bilateral focus and included speakers from the Commonwealth Department of Agriculture and Water Resources (DoAWR), Austrade, Hort Innovation (HIAL) and Freshcare.

DoAWR was represented by Lois Ransom (Assistant Secretary, Plant Import Operations) and David Ironside (newly appointed Assistant Secretary, Plant Export Operations). Both speakers addressed issues of market access, and two-way trade.

DoAWR established the Imported Fresh Produce Working Group (IFPWG) in May 2017, which includes representatives of various industry stakeholders.

Matters addressed included implications for the regulation of fresh produce arising from the new Biosecurity Act 2015, the department’s transition from Offshore Preshipment Inspection, modernisation of the way imported fresh produce is regulated, as well as irradiation as a phytosanitary measure for regulated pests of fresh produce.

Ransom also spoke of management of biosecurity risk, and focussing the most attention on issues that involve the most risk, as well as using historic data to reward compliant pathways through reduced inspections using the Compliance-Based Inspection Scheme (CBIS), an evidence-led, risk-based approach.

David Ironside spoke of the market access and prioritization process, the mechanisms for industry engagement and the importance of effectively engaging all relevant parties. He demonstrated willingness to engage with members of the audience to address operational issues that were raised during the course of the day.

Austrade Senior Trade Advisor Jenny Van de Meeberg provided a glimpse of the future of shopping for fresh produce, albeit with a warning note that Australian exporters must retain a focus on innovative value-adding to maintain their competitive advantage.

She spoke of personalization, which retailers use to emotionally connect customers to a product. A new example of this is the “Taste Australia” branding which HIAL have developed and has been launched at Asia Fruit Logistica in Hong Kong this week.

Freshcare general manager for industry development, Clare Hamilton-Bate, spoke of the expanded range of responsibilities that Freshcare now has, and provided important new information on the accreditation required for exports and the interest in such accreditation by our major trading partners.

Freshcare has developed a new, interactive, on-line platform, allowing training and accreditation to be done online.

Importantly for exporters, Freshcare certification has now been benchmarked against the international GlobalG.A.P standard, and to gain this accreditation suppliers now only have to upgrade their current Freshcare certification.

Hort Innovation was represented by its general manager for trade, Michael Rogers, who mentioned that horticulture accounts for about 15% of GVP in agriculture.

Hort Innovation invests approximately AUD$120 million (US$96 million) each year in R&D and marketing and manages about 650 active R&D and Marketing projects.

The body has also committed funding to the “Frontier Funds”, facilitating collaborative cross-industry projects with a long-term focus, focussing on challenges in areas identified as important to securing the future of Australian horticulture, and dependent on feasibility of outcome and clear pathways to adoption of new markets.

Wayne Prowse of Fresh Intelligence Consulting provided up-to-date statistics on the growth of horticultural trade in 2016-17. Australian fresh produce two-way trade increased 7% to AUD$1.7 billion (US$1.36 billion), of which exports alone were AUD$1.2 billion (US$960 million).

China is the leading market by volume and value worth AUD$245 million (US$196 million). It was noted that Chinese imports of fresh produce have increased exponentially and that the majority of Asian imports are imported from regions that are geographically close (predominantly Asia). Singapore, UAE and Japan are the three largest importers of Australian vegetables.

Ben Reilly from Steritech detailed the investments the company was making in Sydney and Melbourne to increase access to phytosanitary irradiation, as well as efforts in engaging with government and industry to support its use in satisfying import and export protocols.

The afternoon was concluded by Dominic Jenkin who emphasized the importance of transparency and communication across industry and government as as the sector seeks a more coordinated approach to market access and expansion, increased value and efficiency of trade.