The rise in the Asian middle class presents enormous opportunities to exporters globally.
While makers of high-end lifestyle products may be the most obvious
beneficiaries of the increasing affluence across Asia, opportunities for
Australian food and beverage exporters are only just being realised.
China alone has a population of over 1.3 billion and is the world’s
largest consumer market for food and beverage (F&B) goods,
surpassing the United States in 2011. Not only is food consumption
across Asia rapidly growing, but the region is also experiencing
increasing exposure to Western society and foodstuffs. As a result diets
are changing and an example in South Asia it is expected that the
consumption of milk products will increase by 125 per cent by 2030. This presents opportunities for Australian primary food producers.
As the demand for a wider variety of food products across Asia
increases, many countries are not equipped to produce the products.
Reasons include not having a skilled workforce to produce products like
speciality cheeses, or not having the farmland to produce the quantities
of livestock, fruit or vegetables needed to demand.
Much has been written in the past about Australia’s opportunity to
become the ‘food bowl for Asia’. With vast tracts of farming land and
skilled workforces, in theory the opportunities for primary food
producers in Australia to export to Asia have never been greater.
However this doesn’t mean every producer in the country will
automatically become a successful exporter overnight.
As the food industry grows and becomes more interconnected across the
Asia-Pacific region, it is also becoming more competitive, with some
commentators questioning the advantages of the recent Free Trade
Agreements with Japan, China and Korea. Mike Steketee wrote for the ABC, “Can
the free trade agreement with China help Australia realise its
potential in agricultural exports? There’s plenty of competition out
there, and to date we haven’t been keeping up.”
The reality is that Australian producers face increasing pressures to
get products to market in Asia quickly and meeting regional food safety
requirements. For Australian food producers it is vital that they move
away from manual low-tech supply chain processes towards automation.
Speed matters when exporting fresh
In such a competitive consumer-driven market it is essential Australian
food producers get the right product in the right condition and quantity
at the right time to retailers across Asia.
In order to increase the productivity of a food producer’s supply chain,
technologies such as voice automation can support the food product
‘picking’ process within a distribution centre. Voice users commonly
report productivity improvements well above 20 per cent. Voice
eliminates the need to read a display screen, a paper pick list, or a
purchase order, and workers obtain their next task enroute to the next
location, thereby reducing downtime while travelling within the
facility. The ability of voice systems to deliver picking accuracy in
excess of 99.99 percent also means that the correct food orders are
processed for export. This offers a large increase in a business’
throughput, customer satisfaction and profits.
Traceability in a regional marketplace
Advances in the F&B industry in Asia have brought about government
regulations, driving the need for traceability of food products from
point-of-harvest to point-of-sale. Those who are able to offer
comprehensive traceability throughout their operations will prove most
attractive to Asian food retailers. Technologies that facilitate
real-time information such as 2D barcodes, smart labelling or RFID
assist in meeting traceability standards.
Food safety scares in Asia from imported foodstuffs can impact on not
just one, but many food producers, as it can take weeks to determine the
precise location of the outbreak and in during the search farmers may
have to sit back and watch as millions of dollars’ worth of produce
Advanced barcode and RFID technologies allow Australian food producers
to create modern labels that detail the date and individual field where
an item was grown. This kind of label, that follows a product at every
stage along the supply chain, offers enhanced accountability and means
regulators can pinpoint the source of potential pathogen outbreaks much
faster. This saves millions of dollars.
Exporting for success
As the food industry grows and becomes more competitive across Asia,
local food producers face new opportunities and challenges. The key
question for Australian food producers is what technologies they can
implement that will drive efficiencies and help ensure that they get
their goods to export markets as rapidly as possible. Food producers who
make an investment in modernising their businesses with technologies,
such as voice solutions or barcode and RFID systems, will be much better
positioned to meet regional export standards and regulations, as well
as grow their bottom line.