A visiting horticulture expert has warned Australian fruit and vegetable growers that although the quality of their produce is better than ever, consumer demands start at ‘‘perfection’’.
Rabobank fruit and vegetable analyst Roland Fumasi, who is based in California, said the list of qualities consumers looked for in produce continued to grow, making the marketplace a tough place to be.
‘‘Consumers now expect the quality of their fruit and veg to be 100 per cent perfect, 100 per cent of the time,’’ Dr Fumasi said.
‘‘They expect it to taste amazing, look good and to be extremely convenient and they want this all year-round.’’
Dr Fumasi said consumers were looking for not just high quality produce but top notch food safety, transparency regarding production and sustainable food practices.
‘‘It’s important that the Australian fruit and vegetable industry is proactive in engaging this consumer and telling its story, before someone else does,’’ he said.
Although acknowledging the challenges of the industry, with farmers competing with more complex environmental challenges, rising labour costs, water issues and government red tape, Dr Fumasi said there was opportunity for those who could meet market demands.
Australia’s high quality and consistent produce continues to draw a premium from consumers in Asia, yet it is predicted that their demands will soon also increase.
‘‘When you look at developing Asia, we are seeing the market catch up at an incredible rate, so it is only a matter of time until there is a major sector of this market that has the same demands as local Australian markets,’’ Dr Fumasi said.
‘‘Within the next 10 years or so, it is predicted that 66 per cent of the world’s middle-class population will live in the Asia-Pacific and it is in this group of people where we see the biggest growth in fresh fruit and vegetable consumption.’’