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With Challenge Comes Opportunity in Australia

23 November 2012

AUSTRALIA - With challenge comes opportunity. This theme echoed throughout three days of presentations and discussions at the Global Aquaculture Alliance’s GOAL 2012 conference in Bangkok, Thailand, which featured 40-plus speakers, more than 300 attendees and a program stacked with insight and analysis.

But perhaps no presentation captured the theme of turning a challenge into an opportunity better than Norm Grant’s talk on 2 November, the final day of the three-day conference. Grant is executive chairman of the Seafood Importers Association of Australasia, which represents about 30 companies that import the bulk of Australia’s seafood. (He is also a director of Seafood Experience Australia.) Australia is not seafood sufficient, as the majority (about 72 per cent) of the country’s seafood supply is imported.

With a population of about 22 million, Australasia is also a relatively small seafood market. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t an opportunity to grow seafood consumption among Australians. It’s quite the opposite, he explained.

“The average adult Australian consumes 40 per cent less seafood than recommended by our national health and medical research council. So the potential exists to make this an issue of national [importance] for Australia,” said Mr Grant.

“To close this supply gap, taking into account estimated population growth and increases in per-capita consumption, within 10 years we will need an additional 1 million metric tons of seafood per year,” he continued.

“Most of our seafood has to come from overseas, predominately from nations like Thailand, Viet Nam and China. So there’s the opportunity, filling a 1-million-ton gap in Australia’s seafood supply. Some people say Australia is a small market, but I think 1 million metric tons is a big number in anyone’s language.”

After laying out the opportunity that exists in the Australian market, Grant emphasized the importance of product quality and third-party certification and the need to avoid “a race to the bottom.”

“I have this advice: If you’re coming to Australia, come with your brand names, your superior quality and your certifications. The market can pay; it will pay, eventually,” said Grant. “If you join a race to the bottom, an element that exists in other markets, you are only depriving yourself of a profitable future and perhaps ensuring an early exit from our market. Of course, I’ve seen good products pushed off shelves by cheap products. But increasingly what I see are importers, with the hindsight of bad experience, dropping those [inferior] lines, sticking to quality products at quality-product prices and still making sales, profitable sales. Australian trade end-users and consumers look for value. But they’re smart enough and affluent enough to accept that cheap isn’t always a good deal.”

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