Interview with Andrew Harty
MR BALMER: During January 2012, Citrus Australia and five of Australia's largest citrus exporters, visited Thailand and Korea as part of a DPI organised program. The purpose was to get a better understanding of the local Thai and Korean markets, and to talk to key government officials about market access requirements.
Andrew Harty is the Market Development Manager for Citrus Australia.
Andrew, can you tell us the purpose of the visit to Thailand?
MR HARTY: The Australian citrus export industry considers Thailand a really important market. It's been very lucrative for us in the last few years. We would really like to expand it, so we're here with a group of leading exporters from the Sunraysia area, trying to find out more about the market and how we can get more volume in here.
MR BALMER: So, what are the major issues in terms of getting more fruit into this market?
MR HARTY: I guess two things: one is market access, first of all, and that's, you know, going through the quarantine process and making sure that we can actually get fruit delivered to our key customers here. The other is just finding what consumer preferences are, and making sure that we deliver the quality of product that people are looking for.
MR BALMER: And, you've been here for two days now. What are your perceptions of the market?
MR HARTY: The market, obviously, has a wide range of customers and preferences, from some very, let's be honest, quite harsh looking group to - - that is not - - from a cosmetic appearance does not have a fantastic eye appeal, to some very high quality looking products. I think the overriding factor that we picked up is that the fruit flavour must be very, very, sweet, with low acid. That really is the Thai palette that we would need to try and match as closely as possible.
MR BALMER: And, what are the major challenges that you see? You've seen that there is an opportunity here. What do you see as the major challenges in taking advantage of that opportunity?
MR HARTY: I think we need to make sure that those quality parameters are closely adhered to, and that we get that message right through to our whole value chain so that the exporters and packers who come here, will pass that on very clearly to their grower suppliers, so that there is no pressure to send fruit here that would not meet, in particular, those case specs.
The other challenge, of course, is to make sure that people comply with the quarantine protocols that apply. And, particularly, the full [Indistinct] systems approach, that is needed to make sure that clean food comes in here.
MR BALMER: Okay, and there's a range of citrus products that come into this market, grapefruit, orange, mandarin, lemons. Where do you see the major opportunities?
MR HARTY: The major delivery thus far into Thailand has been - - about two-thirds of our delivery is Murcott mandarin, mostly from Queensland, the balance being oranges, navel oranges from the southern regions. We think that that balance probably is not going to change much. In fact, all indications are from the retailers that we've spoken to, is that mandarins will be the preferred category going into the future.
Navel oranges are a lesser well-known product here. That was something of a lesson to us, I think, that unlike some other Asian countries where Sunkist and other navel exporters have made a big impact, that really probably hasn't happened in a big way here in Thailand. And, the message often came through from several retailers that consumers here don't really know how to use navel oranges, whereas mandarins are grown here domestically. They're also imported from China. It's a very well-known product. It's something that we can really capitalise on by sending product that looks fantastic, but also tastes very good.
MR BALMER: And, are we in a good position in Australia to take advantage of this opportunity?
MR HARTY: Oh, I believe so. We've got some really great products coming on. Two that we really tried to highlight in this trip were Daisy Mandarin and Afourer mandarin, both of which are fantastic eye appeal, great flavour. We think they'd really work well in this market.
MR BALMER: Okay, thank you, Andrew.
MR HARTY: My pleasure.