AUSTRALIAN vegetable growers continue to make inroads to overseas markets with broccoli from the Lockyer Valley exported to South Korea for the first time last week.
Until recently, there was confusion about whether broccoli and other leafy green vegetables had market access into South Korea.
But Korean authorities confirmed access and the first shipment of Australian broccoli landed in Seoul following a direct flight from Brisbane.
The grower group, Lockyer Valley Growers, received funding from Austrade as part of the Free Trade Agreement Training Provider Grant and implemented the project in conjunction with Bundaberg Fruit and Vegetable Growers, Bowen-Gumlu Growers Association and the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries.
Lockyer Valley Growers chair, Michael Sippel, said it was an exciting result.
“Currently only 1 per cent of vegetable imports into South Korea come from Australia and consumer tastes and demand for luxury and high-quality food products are increasing,” Mr Sippel said.
South Korea is Asia’s fifth largest economy and imports more than 70pc of its food and agricultural products.
The deal made the most of the Korea-Australia Free Trade Agreement (KAFTA) which started in December 2014, reducing trade and investment barriers for Australian exporters competing with those from America, Europe, Chile and ASEAN countries.
“Our vegetable producers in Queensland are gaining an international reputation as producers of high-quality clean, green and safe vegetables," Mr Sippel said.
"Vegetable producers, especially those based in the Lockyer Valley where a lot of leafy-green vegetables are grown, are excited about the export potential for their produce to South Korea."
It seems South Korea may not be the only ones taking a liking to our vegetables and fruit.
The Australian Horticulture Update report from Rural Bank last week indicated domestic and international demand for Australian avocados and broccoli was rising rapidly.
The Horticulture Update includes information about national production, seasonal conditions, prices and demand of Australia’s horticulture sector for the first five months of 2017.
According to the report, despite a slight 3pc contraction in the overall volume of Australian vegetables exported between January and May 2017 when compared with the same period last year, exports to the Singapore and the United Arab Emirates markets grew by 8pc and 11pc respectively.
Rural Bank said the decline in vegetable exports was in part due to the adverse weather conditions experienced in late 2016 and early 2017 which has in turn, limited supply and increased the vegetable consumer price index by more than 11pc for 2017 June quarter.
Rural Bank's general manager for agribusiness, Andrew Smith, said the increased appetite at home and abroad for certain Australian fruit and vegetables was a great opportunity for producers to continue to grow their businesses to meet this increased demand.
“The ever increasing need for access to Australian fruit and vegetables such as avocados and broccoli is terrific news for our producers, especially in light of the recent difficult climatic conditions they’ve had to face," Mr Smith said.
“Gaining access to new export markets is crucial if Australian producers are to continue to grow, and the recent plan launched by Horticulture Innovation Australia to increase accessibility to new markets through increased levels of research is most welcome.
“Stimulating increased demand internationally for produce such as strawberries would help offset lowering domestic demand and potential oversupply at times."
Other leafy-green vegetables that have export potential in South Korea include lettuce, cauliflower, spinach, kale, Chinese cabbage and Brussell's sprouts.
The Lockyer Valley Growers was established in December 2013 with the aim to support initiatives and projects which benefit the growers of the Lockyer and provide a united voice for horticulture in the region.
The group is open to all fruit and vegetable producers growing produce in the Lockyer Valley and is managed on a day-to-day basis by a voluntary committee.