THE opportunities for Australian horticulture based on forecasts of stronger Asian food demand and supply in coming years are outlined in the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences' latest report, What Asia Wants, released last week.
There are clearly increasing numbers of people in Asia who have the income and inclination to demand and buy good-quality fruit and vegetables that Australia can supply. However, Australia needs to be smart in how it markets its commodities to ensure it can take advantage of the opportunities opening up.
Overall, ABARES predicts the real value of vegetable and fruit consumption in the ASEAN region will nearly double by 2050, with net imports increasing to US$8 billion.
However, this positive outlook is by no means evenly distributed across the region.
For example, in China, the real value of fruit and vegetable consumption is projected to be more than 50% higher than in 2007, but ABARES points out that the consumption of vegetables and fruit has been mainly met by domestic production to date.
In fact, China is a net exporter in value terms of horticultural produce. Towards 2050, ABARES predicts the situation will not change significantly.
Consequently, Australian exporters may need to focus on niche commodity lines or commodities where counter-seasonal production enables good market access conditions with limited competition from other suppliers.
A better situation for Australian horticulture is the outlook for India, where consumption of horticultural products grew by an average of 3.6% a year between 1990 and 2009. The real value of India's vegetable and fruit consumption is projected to reach US$140 billion and US$99 billion respectively in 2050 - more than double the 2007 level. More importantly, by 2050, India is projected to become a significant net importer.
However, to crack this market effectively, Australian growers will need the help of the Australian Government to press for advantages under free trade agreements and to negotiate realistic and economic protocols.
In other parts of Asia, the picture is not as promising. ABARES predicts consumption growth for Japan and the Republic of Korea to be relatively flat by 2050, with the real value of consumption projected to be US$9 billion - 3% lower than in 2007.
The ABARES report is important for its dissection of potential markets in Asia. Growcom looks forward to further research to enable horticulture to see more clearly the way forward and where we can best expend our efforts.
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