Demand for Australian fruit, especially mandarins, continues to increase in Thailand, on the back of targeted trade promotional campaigns like the annual ‘Australia Now! In Season’ initiative.
‘Australia Now! In Season’ is a multi-industry, multi-country integrated promotional program focused on South East Asia. It is designed to raise awareness of the advantages of quality, safe and healthy Australian horticulture products.
The program promotes Australia’s fresh fruit as it comes into season, commencing with summer fruits including grapes, then pears, apples, navels and mandarins as the season progresses.
Stuart Rees, Austrade’s Trade Commissioner for Bangkok, said imported fresh fruit, including mandarins, is enjoying rapid market growth due to increasing demand from Thailand’s retail, food service and food manufacturing sectors.
‘This is because Thailand is the region’s food manufacturing hub, catering to both domestic and international markets. It is also underpinned by changing consumer patterns and the increasing income levels of Thai consumers,’ said Rees.
‘Thai consumers also have a greater awareness of food safety issues. Australia is seen as a “clean, green and safe” supplier, offering better quality and tasting produce when compared to imported products from other countries.
‘While the Thai market is particularly receptive to Australian table grapes, summer fruit, apples and pears, mandarins, particularly the Australian Honey Murcott variety, is becoming the popular choice,’ noted Rees.
‘Australian Honey Murcott mandarins are highly regarded because of their vibrant colour, long shelf life and high sugar content with a well-balanced acidity,’ he added.
While China remains Australia’s largest market by value for mandarins in 2016, Thailand was Australia’s largest export market by trade volume. More than 7.77 tonnes of mandarins were exported, an increase of nearly 25 per cent in 2016 according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
Local retailers are reporting very strong sales of Australian mandarins and are predicting growth of 40 per cent during the ‘Australia Now! In Season’ campaign, as it often coincides with key Chinese Lunar events celebrated in Thailand like The Hungry Ghost, Full Moon and Vegetarian Festivals.
During the Hungry Ghost Festival, Thai-Chinese descendants purchase mandarins – because of their golden exterior – as offerings during prayers for spirits and ancestors. While during the 10-day Vegetarian Festival, Thai-Chinese abstain from eating meat and instead purchase fresh produce, particularly mandarins, in greater volumes.
Another initiative which has helped propel interest in Australian produce was the Austrade-AusVeg Thai buyers visit to Australia from 10-17 May.
Thai buyers visited various fruit growing regions – namely Western Australia’s Perth Hills, South Australia’s Riverland, Queensland’s Emerald and Bundaberg and Victoria’s Murray and Sunraysia districts – to obtain a greater awareness of Australia’s capabilities and offerings.
Rees said these activities have collectively resulted in more leading retailers across Thailand actively seeking Australian produce to sell in their stores.
The Thailand-Australia Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA) has also provided Australian exporters with a competitive advantage over other countries, as it eliminated import duties for many fresh produce items in 2015.