Australia’s beleaguered farmers are poised to unlock vast new export markets as producers, peak bodies and both sides of politics prepare to bury their differences to sell products into China under a “one brand, one logo” approach for the first time.
The new strategy – under wording and a trade symbol designed for maximum Chinese impact – would pitch Australia in a head-to-head race against the gold-standard in export marketing, “100% Pure New Zealand”.
The breakthrough, facilitated by the recent free trade agreement, would have all Australian food products including beef, vegetables, cheese, wine and high-end condiments predominantly branded as Australian ahead of their individual branding, while also certifying them as clean, green and safe.
The proposed high-tech, high-visibility labelling would also be designed to be counterfeit-proof and to allow China’s increasingly safety and quality-conscious consumers – in a country where the middle class is projected to grow by 350 million people over the next four years – to trace the origins of individual products back to a specific animal or producer.
Mining magnate and agriculture sector champion Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest has led a campaign to persuade multiple state and industry sectors, who wanted to retain their own established brandings, to back the breakthrough.
His message to them, supported by the government and opposition, is “get on board, or get out of the way”.
Industry sources say the labelling, a virtual revolution in Australia’s primary export practices, needs to be in place within 18 to 24 months or Australia will permanently surrender access to the biggest and most lucrative market the world has seen.
Already, developing countries such as Brazil and Uruguay have stolen the march in getting beef into China in larger quantities than Australia.
In a keynote speech to the National Farmers Federation Annual Congress on Wednesday, Mr Forrest will warn farmers that consumers will develop new habits and the current way of working could see Australia go backwards.
“This is a significant breakthrough,” Mr Forrest’s speech notes say.
“Both parties know, and now acknowledge, that an opt-in unified brand – one that sells safe, clean, green Australia and one that is underpinned by the world’s best traceability technology – is indeed worth the risk.
“We have got to cut through the confusion … states are fighting territories and other states on branding, governments compete with companies on messaging, and there are a multitude of different logos, and that might work in our local supermarkets, but it doesn’t work overseas.
“The clear value proposition of safe Australia, a clean, green Australia was, and is, being completely lost overseas.”
Trade Minister Steve Ciobo will work with Austrade and professional market researchers to design the branding, which would ideally apply to all food and even to high-end wine labelling.
A source involved said the focus had to be on designing a brand and logo based on the Chinese consumer rather than on “what we in Australia think best encapsulates our products”.
Current options identified by Australian consumers – such as the highly identifiable kangaroo symbol – are likely only to confuse Chinese buyers if placed on beef products or milk.
Mr Forrest, a founder of the Australia Sino One Hundred Year Agricultural and Food Safety Partnership, said the move away from the one-child policy alone would add 16 million children to the Chinese market each year.
“The Chinese like to eat what we do because they know they can rely on our pristine environment and stringent quality standards,” he said.
“A little while ago a Chinese soapie put Australia’s Weetbix on the menu. This little box of goodness is available here in Australia [for] $4 to $5, in China it’s $40 to $50.”