The Centre for Global Food and Resources (GFAR) researchers Dr. Alec Zuo, Prof. Wendy Umberger, Prof. Sarah Wheeler and Dr. David Adamson met with Mr. David Ironside, Assistant Secretary, Plant Export Operations, Biosecurity Plant Division, Department of Agriculture and Water Resources (DAWR) to discuss a new project titled ‘Understanding parallel trade of Australian products to China’ under the Agricultural Trade and Market Cooperation (ATMAC) program funded by the DAWR.
Steady growth of the Chinese economy and a corresponding increase in disposable income per capita have led to a rapidly expanding middle class in China. This expanding middle class are able and willing to pay a premium for food of high nutrient and from a clean and sustainable natural environment, which creates great opportunities for Australian fresh food producers. At present, Australian fresh produce is sent to the Chinese market via a number of channels: official trade, personal buying agents (daigou), e-commerce, etc. While the official trade channel is well regulated, fresh produce sent through other channels may not be subject to the same requirements imposed by the Australian and Chinese governments, such as phytosanitary measures.
The project looks at alternative export pathways to the Chinese market for Australian fresh produce. In particular the profile of Chinese buyers of Australian products will be created for the first time using a unique large industry dataset, in terms of geographic location, age and gender. In-depth interviews with personal buying agents and questionnaires for Chinese consumers will also be administered in order to understand the current situation of perishable produce shipped from Australia to China through the personal network; and explore the challenges, including regulatory issues to sell perishable Australian produce to China through alternative channels.
While Australia’s exports of fresh food, for example beef, mango and cherry, to China have been increasing considerably in recent years and trade through alternative channels is on the rise, it is critical to understand Chinese consumers’ awareness and acceptance of the alternative channels and the implications for Australian producers.