The Australian vegetable industry is capitalising on strong demand for locally-grown vegetables in key export markets and investment in increasing the exporting capabilities of its growers, with Global Trade Atlas data indicating that total fresh vegetable exports have increased 61 per cent in value over the past five years, at an average growth rate of 10 per cent per year.
Australia’s vegetable exports grew two per cent to AUD$252 million in 2017, with its top markets being Singapore, the United Arab Emirates, Japan, Malaysia and Hong Kong. Carrots, onions and potatoes currently account for over 60 per cent of total vegetable export value and over 80 per cent of vegetable export volume. Carrots continued to be the best performing vegetable export in 2017, increasing to 110,000 tonnes at a value of AUD$91 million.
AUSVEG National Manager – Export Development Michael Coote said the progress the Australian vegetable industry has made in growing its exports in recent years should not be overshadowed by comparisons with the value of Australian fruit exports, with the vegetable industry well placed to meet its goal of 40 per cent growth to AUD$315 million in fresh vegetable exports by 2020.
“The Australian vegetable industry is experiencing solid growth in its exports, particularly on the back of strong performing products such as carrots and broccoli to the Middle East and Asia,” said Mr Coote.
“While it is easy to assess the performance of vegetable exports against fruit exports, there are considerations that make comparing these two groups problematic.
“Fruits are a higher value export group than vegetables as they are more seasonal commodities and can command higher prices from importing countries during their seasonal windows. Vegetables, on the other hand, are a more consistent annual product group and tend to fill gaps in regions that are not so lucky to have year-round vegetable production like we do with most vegetable commodities in Australia.
“Market access is also a contributing factor. A number of different Australian fruits have had success growing their export trade into China, while Australia does not yet have access into this market for most vegetable commodities.
“Australian vegetables are also lower-priced products that are being grown in a high-cost environment, due to the rising costs of labour, electricity and water, and experience particular vulnerability to fluctuating exchange rates that make it harder for vegetable growers to compete in a global market.
“Despite these challenges, the industry has increased its focus on boosting the value and volume of its vegetable exports, with work being undertaken by AUSVEG, Hort Innovation and other groups in building the exporting skills of Australian growers and providing opportunities to build relationships with foreign buyers. A lot of work is also being undertaken to increase market access into more countries, including China and other potentially high value markets.”
Significant private investment is underway in the vegetable sector to boost production and exports. This private investment is being strongly supported by vegetable levy investments through Hort Innovation including projects driving industry capability.
“The industry is well on its way to reach the ambitious target of AUD$315 million in fresh vegetable exports by 2020 as outlined by the industry’s export strategy. We are working with growers to ensure they have the skills and knowhow to improve their ability to export their produce and capitalise on increasing demand for fresh, Australian-grown vegetable produce,” said Mr Coote.