FRDC expands its role

Maya Puglisi

In the past six months the operating environment for the FRDC has changed significantly. Amendments to legislation have been proposed that would allow the FRDC to expand its role. At the same time Seafood Services Australia (SSA) has closed.

The FRDC has already taken on the delivery of several new services, and if amendments to the Primary Industries and Energy Research and Development Act 1989 (PIERD Act) are passed, it may take on more.

Marketing and promotion

Just some of the seafood on offer at the 2013 Savour Australia event in Adelaide.

Proposed changes to the PIERD Act would allow Research and Development Corporations to add marketing and promotion initiatives to their activities.

The amendments were first introduced to Federal Parliament on 19 June 2013 as the Rural Research and Development Legislation Amendment Bill 2013. Although it passed through the House of Representatives, it was still before the Senate when the Prime Minister called the federal election, which means the legislation has not yet been passed.

However, foreshadowing the proposed changes, the FRDC is moving to put in place the processes and resources necessary to carry out marketing and promotion activities.

These kinds of activities will be entirely dependent on the amendments being re-introduced and passed by Parliament, and then on the interest of industry groups in pursuing them. Marketing activities will require the collection of funds from sectors wishing to participate.

Trade and market access

The announcement in July that SSA was closing meant a number of key FRDC projects would require transitioning to new organisations. The FRDC has taken direct responsibility for the management of the Seafood Market Access and Trade Forum and the trade databases, including:

  • food microorganisms;
  • contaminants;
  • food additive database;
  • export tariff and duties database;
  • detainments of Australian seafood;
  • trade issues database;
  • Codex for comment; and
  • trade statistics database.

The FRDC will deliver trade and market information and services to stakeholders, and Simon (Song) Liu, who worked with SSA, has been engaged to provide advice and update the trade data for the FRDC website.

As part of the transition, some users will have noticed the FRDC has implemented fundamental changes to the previous SSA databases and websites to ensure they comply with government regulations, such as the privacy and accessibility guidelines. This has included asking all subscribers if they wish to continue to receive trade information.

The FRDC has also been speaking with key partners, including the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and SafeFish, to review all current trade and market access activities to identify ways to improve the delivery of services.

This has led the FRDC to look at the structure and design of some of the databases and implement several small changes. Further changes to the Seafood Market Access and Trade Forum may take place in the future and the FRDC will keep all users up to date as these occur.

To keep abreast of trade issues, the FRDC’s communications manager Peter Horvat has been appointed to the Department of Agriculture Export Consultative Committee and the SafeFish Committee.

He will also join the Australian Seafood Cooperative Research Centre Seafood Trade Access Group, which was formed largely to improve trade with China. The FRDC’s participation will help reduce duplication in the work that is being undertaken.

Setting standards

The FRDC has been approved by the Accreditation Board for Standards Development Organisations as a Standards Development Organisation (SDO), a role previously undertaken by SSA.
The driver for becoming a SDO was to ensure continuity of the Australian Fish Names Standard.

The FRDC is recognised as a reliable source of knowledge within the fishing industry and is sufficiently resourced to carry out standards development work within the scope of accreditation, within a reasonable time frame.

Being an International Organization for Standardization, the FRDC was able to prove it has sound administrative procedures in place, but will also have to demonstrate impartiality and neutrality throughout the standards development process.

The FRDC’s executive director Patrick Hone says this accreditation will allow the FRDC to develop Australian Standards in terminology, sustainability and operational practices in the fishing industry.

“This is an important achievement for the FRDC, as it becomes one of only five organisations accredited to develop Australian Standards and the only one able to do so within the food industry,” he says.

Standards are published documents setting out specifications and procedures designed to ensure products, services and systems are safe and reliable, and consistently perform the way they were intended to. Standards establish a common language, which defines quality and safety criteria.

Standards can be guidance documents including Australian Standards, International Standards and Joint Standards, Codes, Specifications, Handbooks and Guidelines. These documents are practical and set achievable goals.

They are based on sound industrial, scientific and consumer experience and are constantly reviewed to ensure they keep pace with new technologies. Standards cover everything from consumer products and services, construction, engineering, business, information technology and human services to energy and water utilities, the environment and more.

The FRDC will be able to implement standards based on the latest fisheries research, to encourage a greater uptake of the most responsible, science-based fishing procedures. The funds the FRDC spends in developing new standards could potentially be recovered through accreditation fees, with any additional money recovered reallocated to more fisheries research.

More information is available at the Standards Australia website.

Fish names

The FRDC inherits an already-developed standard, the Australian Fish Names Standard (AS5300), from SSA. To maintain this existing standard, the FRDC will form a committee to assess any requests for changes or additions to Fish Names.

The Australian Fish Names Standard was approved by Standards Australia as an official Australian Standard in 2007. It aims to prescribe a standard fish name for each species of fish produced or traded in Australia. At the moment, it includes close to 5000 Australian and imported species, mostly finfish, but plans are in place to add more crustaceans, molluscs and sharks.

A searchable online fish names database includes all species listed in the standard. Users can find a fish by name and check its previous or non-standard names, as well as seeing an image in some cases.

The current standard specifies that fish sold to consumers, for example retail sales and restaurants, must be identified by their standard fish name; and fish sold other than directly to consumers, for example, wholesale, export and import, must also be identified by their standard fish name or scientific name.

This increases consumer confidence in the seafood product purchased as standard names allow for more effective fisheries monitoring and management, which in turn results in greater sustainability of fisheries resources. Traceability and food-safety management can also improve with more efficient seafood marketing campaigns, and increasing industry profitability.

Having a standard in place also allows more efficient and effective management of food safety and reduces the potential for misleading and deceptive conduct as more accurate trade descriptors can be used.


Savouring Australia’s finest

Establishing partnerships with other players in Australia’s food and wine industry is becoming an important part of the FRDC’s education and public awareness strategy. This has included participating in the 2013 Savour Australia wine festival held in Adelaide in September.

Savour 2013 was one of the biggest wine forums held in Australia. The four-day business event was held from 15 to 18 September and brought together over 700 wine, food, retail and restaurant people from across the globe – for China, UK/Europe, the US and Asia.

Wine Australia sourced local seafood and other produce for event lunches and dinners to help showcase the wines on offer. It provided an opportunity for the FRDC to help educate international and domestic visitors about Australian seafood.

FRDC communications manager Peter Horvat says the culmination of the seafood experience was the grand tasting and providores market on the last day of the event. “We worked with more than a dozen seafood industry suppliers and producers from across the country to deliver the five separate tasting experiences for the delegates,” he says.

The five tastings included:

  • prawn tasting (wild and farmed Tiger Prawns, farmed Banana Prawns and wild east-coast King Prawns);
  • horizontal sashimi tasting (Atlantic Salmon, Albacore, Yellowfin Tuna and three cuts of Southern Bluefin Tuna);
  • Pacific Oysters (Coffin Bay and Smoky Bay);
  • Australian Blue Mussels (Port Lincoln); and
  • trout caviar.

The seafood was presented very simply, allowing its quality and flavours to show through. The team, including FRDC executive director Patrick Hone, took the delegates through each of the tastings, explaining the differences between species, cuts and origins.

“They were amazed by differences in the seafood, between species, and regional differences. Most delegates to the event had never tried the variety of seafood in one place, let alone done a tasting of the same category of prawns or tuna and Atlantic Salmon,” Peter Horvat says.

“John Susman and his Fishtales team did an excellent job for the FRDC managing the on-ground logistics. The event was a huge success for seafood. Wine Australia and the international and domestic visitors left the show excited about the combination of Australian wine and seafood.”

Options for the future

The goal for the FRDC was to build a strategic partnership with Wine Australia to open up new opportunities for seafood producers and also tell the story that Australian seafood is sustainably managed and responsibly harvested, and is backed by sound research.

Participation in this event has gone a long way to achieving this, and Wine Australia has offered the FRDC opportunities to participate in its international and domestic activities.

This includes two Wine Australia events in China (Hong Kong and Shanghai). The FRDC is now working with Wine Australia in-country teams around the world to try to match Australian seafood and wine companies and events.

More information

Seafood sectors or businesses interested in finding out more are invited to contact:
Peter Horvat, 02 6285 0414,
peter.horvat@frdc.com.au.


More information

FishNames

Standards Australia

Peter Horvat, 02 6285 0414
peter.horvat@frdc.com.au