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Aussie Food Exports to Asia reach new high

An analysis of the latest quarterly Australian trade statistics show that exports of food and beverage products to Asia achieved their highest ever recorded level for a March quarter.

The March 2000 quarter showed Australia's food exports to Asia are up more than 20% over the same quarter last year, and are now almost 35% above the level experienced in 1997 at the height of the Asian economic crisis. Most sectors maintained strong growth rates with meat, dairy, grains, seafood, horticulture, confectionery, and wines and beverages all continuing to expand.

A worrying note, however, is that this growth is being driven by only a handful of food product categories according to the Executive Director of the Supermarket to Asia Council, Jim Kennedy. Of 608 product lines the top ten jumped by $500 million, representing 88 percent of total gains.

By value the top ten food products exported to Australia were: Canola Seed; Boned Beef - Fresh or Chilled and Frozen; Milk with fat content less than 1.5%; Fresh Lobsters; Milk, Cream with fat content greater than 1.5%; Live Cattle; Frozen Lobsters; Cheese; and Pet Food.

The Supermarket to Asia (STA) Council seeks to grow Australian food sales to Asia and increase the number of exporters by developing a market-led export culture, removing barriers, building points of product difference, and improving competitiveness.

Mr Kennedy stated "It is important to get a broader range of value-added Australian food products into Asian markets. World trade in processed food and beverages is growing at approximately three times the rate of growth in trade of food commodities, and there is potential for Australia to increase its market share in Asia and secure our reputation for quality.

"The bottom line is that Asia remains by far our largest customer for food, taking over 60% of our total sales - and this position is not likely to change in the near future. Despite worrying signs of a more protectionist sentiment in Malaysia and the Philippines, recent experience shows us that even if recovery slows, sales of our food and beverage products are unlikely to be significantly hit because of the underlying trends of increasing population, greater urbanisation and westernizing diets.

"We need to focus now on extending our product range and exposure, especially in areas such as food service and processing. The interest generated by the Olympics in Australia provides an opportunity to showcase a wider range of our food to many more of our customers, helping to create international market demand. During the coming year, Supermarket to Asia will be vigorously promoting our products to our Asian trading partners," Kennedy said.

A statistical package with easy to read graphs is available on request via www.affa.gov.au. Or phone Maria Harbecke, Communications Manager on (00612) 6270 8804.

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Exports of Australian Food by Sector to Asia excludes wheat, barley, rice and sugar)

Meat $668M
Dairy $423M
Other Grains $437M
Horticulture $190M
Seafood $302M
Confectionery $35M
Other Food $108M
Wine & Beverages $33M

Total to Asia $2,196M

Source: The Prime Minister's Supermarket to Asia Council based on data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

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