International trade

Australian fishing and aquaculture have a strong international presence. Exporting to markets including China, Japan, the United States, parts of Europe not to mention other Asian countries has meant the Australian industry has become well known for its high quality and wide choice of highly sought after species such as abalone, rock lobster, tuna and prawns.

Australia exports for many reasons, but one of the most important for a business is because there are lucrative markets, where customers place a much higher value on particular products that exist in Australia.

What makes up international trade

International trade in the fishing and aquaculture community can refer to a number of different aspects of the industry. At its core, however it is still about selling your product.

Externally, at the highest level there are a lot of factors that relate to, and impact on a business's ability to sell their product. Trade laws – trade agreements, export regulations and existing trade relations with different countries, can offer different opportunities for global markets.

Further down in the country market place, once a business arrives, there are the same range of issues that apply in Australia – awareness, price, product, packaging; but there are other issues that businesses must address – language, tastes, and currency.

Businesses have options on how to deal with these many issues. Co-operation between existing exporters in the industry is one option, so is partnering with other Australian products, such as wine, fruit and vegetables. An example is the Australian Grape and Wine Authority's Japan, Asia & Emerging Markets Programs.

Considerations discussed

Could a marketing initiative assist in enhancing Australia's international trade relations, broaden markets, improve trade conditions or improve your profits?

  • Do you consider international trade as a priority for you? What could marketing do to improve the outcomes of this arrangement for your business?
  • Could a marketing assist in growing exports to a particular country or region?
  • Would you be interested in participating in an international event with other Australian products?
  • Are there export destinations where greater awareness and understanding of Australia's market would benefit business relations with that country?

There are a range of existing initiatives within the industry that could be part of a marketing campaign to promote the industry, enhance Australia's credibility with our trade partners or your business. For example: 

These were some of the comments that emerged during the consultation:

Len Stephens
Submitted by Len Stephens on Fri, 2014-11-14 16:34
How do we best achieve unified advice to Government Policy (not AQIS) on seafood trade matters?
Brett McCallum
Submitted by Brett McCallum on Fri, 2014-11-14 16:35
Australian industry needs to mature its selling strategies to maintain access to several markets even where prices paid differ. Spreads risk and maintains products on menus.
Rachel King
Submitted by Rachel King on Sun, 2014-11-16 16:56
What are the market prices for oysters and market share in relation to other seafood and other food - how has that been changing?
Sam Gordon
Submitted by Sam Gordon on Mon, 2014-11-17 17:04
Extending trade needs consumer research and market intelligence, including other protein categories, to develop industry wide
Katherine Winchester
Submitted by Katherine Winchester on Mon, 2014-11-17 17:08
Agree, to understand the markets better and ensure development of the industry we need consumer research to understand market opportunities - from viable businesses that are growing
Peter Fare
Submitted by Peter Fare on Thu, 2014-12-18 16:27
I have recently returned from the China Seafood Exhibition, an exhibition I have attended for the past 6 years.

I have attached a map of the international section for your reference. As in previous years, the absence of an Australian presence at the largest seafood exhibition in Australia's most important export market is becoming an area of concern. When we consider the effort and exposure by a number of our international competitors in similar product categories eg - New Zealand (Lobster and Abalone), Canada (Lobster) and Argentina/Ecuador (Shrimp/prawn), it is embarrassing. These countries are devoting significant effort, time and money at these exhibitions. In most cases, these campaigns are either fully or partially funded by their provisional and/or their national governments. British Columbia (Canada) had a delegation led by their Trade Minister who attended the show, hosted industry functions and participated in government meetings.

There was however a few Australian companies such a Geraldton Fisherman's Coop and Urangan Fisheries who exhibited in their own right and a number of individuals who attended, such as Andrew Puglisi – Kinkawooka, Jason – Fish Tales, Graham Potter – Raptis).

Those (including myself) who have been involved in the export to China understand the difficult situation that Australian exporters under the existing high import tariffs. This has attributed to our poor showing at these exhibitions. However with the easing in import duties in the near future and the transition to low or nil tariff on Australian seafood in the next 4 years, now is the time that we must look to expand our presence at these type of events.

Jonas Woolford
Submitted by Jonas Woolford on Mon, 2014-12-22 13:08

Totally agree Peter, your thoughts and comments are very similar to the conversation going on in the abalone sector at present.

What would even be better is if the states and territories stopped competing with each other in such international market places and combined efforts.

I think we have got more chance of getting ourselves together as a seafood sector than the states and territories however.

Jayne Gallagher
Submitted by Jayne Gallagher (not verified) on Thu, 2015-01-15 17:09

At the Seafood Exporters Forum in November (45 Australian exporters attended) it was agreed that having a unified approach to work in partnership with government was critical to maintaining trade and market access in key markets such as China, Japan, Korea and others. It was noted that the approach taken by the Abalone and Rock Lobster sectors in forming the Seafood Trade Advisory Group and then working on the priority issues ie FTAs, deemed value, customs clearance times etc has had visible results - and the STAG is now recognised by the government as a source of credible data and information and trade and market access issues.

The question is when the CRC closes in June 2015 what will happen to the STAG and the trade agenda? FRDC advised that they need to hear from industry whether Trade is a priority area. The Abalone and Rock Lobster sectors think so and are planning to keep the STAG going beyond the closure of the CRC.

A full report of the discussions at the Forum will shortly be published on the website www.seafoodtradeadvisory.com. I will post it here as well.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 2015-02-22 10:48

I have experienced hostile reception from some seafood retailers in S.A. while trying to promote Sydney Rock Oysters in Adelaide. Local growers (some) have promoted the myth that Sydney Rocks are grown in sewage and that Pacific's are from a pristine environment. This is obviously designed to try and keep us out of S.A. while they plunder our traditional East Coast markets.

Many people I have dealt with want to see Rocks available in S.A. again... These tactics by some in the S.A. oyster industry does nothing for the generic advertising of oysters or the advantage of natural competition of the two species in the market place... nor the trust needed to weld the Australian oyster industry together as a whole.

Many regard the South Australian industry as the enemy while these marketing lockouts continue. Giving the consumer a choice can only benefit both industries in the long run.

Peter Horvat
Submitted by Peter Horvat on Mon, 2015-02-23 08:52

You pose an interesting question. Quite often when people think about trade barriers we think international markets, rather than inside our own Australian borders.

Discussing this with colleagues (some from SA) we were of the view that South Australians are an unique bunch, being very parochial to their state, as such this could be seen as a difficult culture to crack. That said they were both of the option that combined with a long term commitment to on the ground merchandising and promotions, the South Australian market is worth pursuing.

The Australian consumer across Australia is slowly getting more aware, so I agree with their sentiment. We ran a tasting event in partnership with Wine Australia in Adelaide and did a tasting of oysters from a few regions and the wine makers agree that showcasing the different regions and celebrating the differences – similar to how wine does it.

There are some opportunities for both the local oyster growers, seafood retailers and restaurants to actually put forward a very good story celebrating the diversity of osters we have in Australia. If you have been to New York they have a great oyster bar in Central station which does something like this offering many different types from across the US – see
http://www.viewmenu.com/grand-central-oyster-bar/menu?ref=google the oysters are about half way down the page.

John Susman
Submitted by John Susman on Mon, 2015-02-23 15:56
South Australian's are a proud people, often their parochialism is misconstrued as a trade barrier, however, mostly it is from their undying support of their local community. WHilst this can raise challenges for those from out side of the state to sell their products there, it is mostly a function of undertaking clear communications and prosecuting a case for the culinary versatility rock oysters offer the finely tuned pallets' of the Adelaide diner.

Combined with a long term commitment to on the ground merchandising and promotions, the South Australian market is worth pursuing.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 2015-02-24 15:57
Hi Peter, thanks for the reply.
I do believe the future for the Rock Oyster in particular is in export. There is a generational change occurring and the whole scene is price driven, with quality taking a second tier priority. Security within the market place is no longer assured and the traditional pathway of moving oysters through to the public is becoming more difficult.

The South Australian industry, by their own admission have no need to pursue an export market as yet because they have not yet reached that critical mass that production exceeds demand locally. The Sydney Rock has lost some major producing areas over the past decade and overall production took some big hits. And while there has been impressive increases in production in the South Coast…the North coast is certainly falling behind.

That is why I believe that a marketing levy would assist the industry to compete in areas that have become exclusive Pacific Oyster zones and give the public a smourgasboard of choice and with alternative pathways to the retail market.

The inevitable reality is that it is much more expensive to produce a Rock Oyster (around 30-36 months compared to 10-20 months), so in a price driven, decreasing share of the market…our unique product needs to look offshore to encourage more investment in the industry.

But without trying to sound to too harsh on the seafood processors/retailers, it would be good for all the industry for them to come back on board and treat the growing and selling of seafood (oysters in particular) as a whole, with all participants having an interest in sharing the profit.