Agri-food producers in spotlight at China virtual showcase

Virtually fresh: An innovative showcase opportunity for WA agri-food businesses took place with prospective buyers from the east coast province of Zhejiang, south of Shanghai.
Virtually fresh: An innovative showcase opportunity for WA agri-food businesses took place with prospective buyers from the east coast province of Zhejiang, south of Shanghai.

Border closures have not stopped a group of Western Australian agrifood and beverage businesses showcasing their wares to buyers in the Chinese market.

A successful virtual 'taste and talk' promotional event featuring high quality produce from WA was held recently with prospective buyers from the east coast province of Zhejiang, south of Shanghai.

Brad Adams, Managing Director of Augusta-based Ocean Grown Abalone said the feedback received on their Two Oceans Abalone product had been very positive.

"This is an important and needed development for Western Australian and all Australian agri businesses to adapt and evolve in these different times when we are faced with limited travel and access to export markets and in particular China, a key market for abalone," Mr Adams said.

"Thank you to the Department for organising this inaugural 'virtual' showcase of premium agri-goods to Chinese buyers."

The marketing and trade opportunity was created and hosted by the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, in collaboration with the Department of Jobs, Tourism, Science and Innovation's Invest and Trade WA team.

WA has a longstanding relationship with Zhejiang, which has been a sister province since 1987, while its major northern city of Jiaxing has been a sister city of Bunbury since 2000.

The three hour gathering was held using a digital conferencing platform, enabling participants to share in the event in real time and discuss the food and beverages being sampled.

DPIRD primary industries trade manager I-Lyn Loo said it was the first time the WA Government has held this type of virtual agrifood and beverage showcase, which received encouraging feedback from all participants.

"The Zhejiang showcase is another example of how local agrifood and beverage businesses and government have worked together to adjust to the new operating environment created by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic," Ms Loo said.

"It was heartening to see how well both the WA and Chinese participants embraced the new format and technology to hold an inviting promotional event.

"The Chinese buyers were obviously very engaged and interested in the provenance of the WA samples and keen to learn more about what suppliers had to offer."

A total of 13 agrifood and beverage suppliers from across WA participated in the event, providing wine, seafood, truffles, honey and beef sampled by about 50 Chinese buyers.

Each WA supplier was given 10 minutes to discuss their product, with the aid of an interpreter, as it was being sampled by the Chinese buyers, with time provided for questions.

"It was interesting to observe how quickly the participants adapted to the digital format and how easily conversation and questions flowed," Ms Loo said.

"This new marketing channel will certainly continue to evolve and expand, as the department and its collaborators look at new ways of doing business and promoting WA produce to markets around the globe."

China continues to be WA's largest agricultural export market worth $2.6 billion in 2018-19, accounting for 28 per cent of the State's agrifood and beverage exports over the same period.

The virtual Zhejiang showcase builds on a range of virtual market engagement initiatives led by DPIRD across a range of key WA agrifood markets.

This includes a successful online virtual wine masterclass, held with a group of 22 wine industry professionals from Tokyo in June, while another is being planned.

The department is also working with partners to explore a new virtual approach to market WA produce to Dubai, after a successful virtual 'boot camp' for WA start-ups and early stage innovators earlier in the year.

Department Agribusiness, Food and Trade Executive Director Liam O'Connell said it was essential to pursue innovative business models to engage key markets in today's unique, dynamic global operating environment.

"Agrifood exports are WA's second largest export sector, with approximately 80 per cent of our production exported," Mr O'Connell said.

"While these exports have held up relatively well throughout this extraordinary year, it is important to maintain regular, virtual engagement with our valuable international customers to ensure a strong WA agrifood industry for the future.

"A partnership approach, together with industry and other government agencies, is crucial to building market relationships and creating ongoing trade opportunities."