I have had the privilege to travel to China six times over the past four years. To say it has changed in that time is a total understatement.
I have spent most of my time in Shanghai, but have travelled to other parts. This trip was only Shanghai and I can’t believe how sophisticated the market is getting. We often hear about the fear of food quality and whilst that still seems to be top of mind, the gap seems to be starting to be bridged.
Darren Thomas, CEO of Thomas Foods International and I recently spoke at a CEDA lunch. Darren talked about the opportunity in China and the risk Australia runs in not making the most of the opportunity. Every other country in the world seems to be focusing on China. Last week we exhibited at the largest food trade event in China, SIAL, in Shanghai. Food SA has been doing this show for a number of years, but this year honestly blew me away. The quality of the visitors, looking for quality products was outstanding. Of course, all is in the follow up, but the opportunity that presents itself was right before our eyes.
The negative aspect to this opportunity is that Australia was not represented as a country. There were many countries there and Australia had exhibitors scattered around the show. South Australia and Victoria both had a strong presence, but it wasn’t coordinated. There were some New South Wales exhibitors who were tucked away, nearly not noticeable. Put this against countries such as the USA with 128 uniformly presented companies, we are easily missed, and thus so are the potential opportunities.
Each time I visit China, and particularly Shanghai I marvel at the progress and sophistication that is evident. Whilst Australians tend to believe our product is superior, it won’t be long before everyone is supplying clean and safe food. Shanghai is a truly international city with at least 24 million people living there. In my view, it is where a market opportunity exists and there are ways we can work together urgently to make it all happen for the benefit of our country, industry and economy!
Food SA has an office operating in Shanghai, please get in touch if you would like to know more.
Guest blog by Catherine Barnett
Catherine Barnett is CEO of Food SA.