Asia the future, says AWB

By Kellie Penfold

Australia"s primary wheat exporter, AWB (International), is cranking up its campaign to shift the industry"s attention and energies towards Asia, which it believes now more than ever to be the future. It hopes its belief in Australian wheat"s prospects in this part of the world will influence plant-breeding priorities, as well as industry marketing strategies.

At a recent joint AWB/GRDC Industry Forum in Melbourne - the AWB National Pool Wheat Breeding Forum and the GRDC Wheat Quality Research Forum - AWB(I) discussed its strategy for targeting Asian markets with improved hard wheats and better soft wheats.

It said this was where the most rewarding future lay for Australian graingrowers.

As part of its "Shaping the Future" strategy, launched at the forum, AWB(I) outlined its case for Australian growers to produce less Australian Standard White and Australian Premium White - because demand for these types of wheat were now being met by aggressively marketed wheat from emerging grain growing countries.

AWB(I) general manager Sarah Scales said demand for differentiated product and a freight advantage made Asia the ideal alternative export destination.

"We are aiming to export more than 60 per cent of volumes (to Asia) by 2009, and we are on track, having exported 10 million tonnes to Asia for the first time in 2004," she said. "AWB(I) is looking at its office locations to ensure we have people within these markets to provide new levels of support and technical service for our customers. We expect to soon be establishing new offices in strategic markets such as China."

AWB Limited pool manager David Johnson said population growth and per capita consumption increases were expanding market opportunities in countries such as Indonesia and Vietnam - where flour consumption is increasing at 5 per cent a year.

"We can also grow the Australian market asia the futuRe, says aWb share from its low base in mature markets such as Taiwan, the Philippines, Thailand and Malaysia and work on retaining the high-value markets in Japan and South Korea," he said. "In China, despite structural changes within the country, there is still increasing demand for quality wheats."

To service the Asian market the forum was told Australia needed more soft wheat - ideal for the Asian biscuit, cake and confectionery market - to compete with Soft White Wheat coming from the US, and also higher protein Australian Hard and Australian Prime Hardtype wheat for yellow alkaline noodles and the sponge and dough bread markets.

Despite the new focus on Asia, Mr Johnson said there remained opportunities for growth in the Middle East, Africa and Europe and the existing markets were still worth maintaining. He also believed there were opportunities to improve on the value of durum exports to Italy and the maintenance of durum exports to Morocco.