Less is more for exports

An expert in agribusiness has said Australian farmers have been held back from opportunities in exporting to Asia because they think it's about quantity over quality. 

Visiting Bendigo for the Victorian Agribusiness Forum on Friday, David Bui said the appetite of the growing Asian middle class meant they were willing to pay high prices for good quality, niche products.

He said this was a stumbling block for many Australian farmers who were still in the mind set of thinking quantity was more important. 

Mr Bui, who works as a partner to Malaysian food company Niche Group, sources Australian produce on behalf of overseas buyers.

He said the reason for quality over quantity was because of the growing middle class across Asia who had deep pockets for their food bill. 

He said Asians' perception of Australian produce was that it was "cleaner and greener" and it was therefore worth paying extra money. 

Director of Malaysian food company Niche Group and event special guest Sing Wee Yek spoke at the sold-out forum. He said the Malaysian market had a large appetite for Australian produce. His interest in central Victoria was particularly in herbs and seasonal fruit and vegetables.

Mr Yek said Australian produce was in demand in Asia because the farming system was "systematic" and perceived to be safer.

"Control and regulation by local government is conducive to produce being a safer product," he said.

Young farmer Alister Knight works on his father's farm producing lamb and wool.

He said the typical export avenue was not through niche products sold direct to Asia but through the traditional sale yard.

He said the current mindset was still "the easiest way is the best way". 

Mr Knight said the challenge would be to develop a specific brand for his farm and sell in small quantities straight to buyers in Asia. 

"It comes down to education in the agricultural sector and farmers being willing to change," Mr Knight said.

He said a change would involve primary producers coming out from "behind the farmer's gate" and "stepping over the fence and into the global market".

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