Fruit and vegetables to Thailand
Trends and opportunities
The Thai fresh produce market is enjoying rapid growth due to high demand from the retail, food service and food manufacturing sectors.
Thailand is the region’s food manufacturing hub, catering to both the domestic and international markets. There has been an increasing demand for quality raw materials, particularly for export markets which have high food standards.
The market for imported produce is expanding due to changing consumption patterns and increasing income levels of Thai consumers. Many key retailers have imported fresh produce sections all year round to serve this rising consumer group.
Although imported produce is viewed as a luxury item, it is gaining in popularity due to:
- changes in Thailand’s consumer spending patterns
- increasing tourist numbers and expatriates living in Thailand
- the expanding food service sector
- the rapid growth of modern retailers.
Domestic tropical produce is also very popular, as it is suited to local taste and retails at significantly lower prices when compared to imported produce. But changes in climatic conditions are resulting in inconsistent production of seasonal domestic produce and higher market prices for domestic produce, creating a wider window of opportunity for imported produce.
Generally, domestic produce is in season during the summer, April to June, which often means a drop in the purchase of imported produce by Thai consumers. However, major supermarkets, especially those catering to middle-high income earners, carry imported produce all year round.
Based on the current demand of consumer preferences and competitors, the Thai market is particularly receptive to Australian table grapes, mandarins, summer fruit, apples and pears.
Key factors that make these and other fresh produce exports from Australia attractive for Thai importers and consumers include:
- Australia is seen is a 'clean and green' destination and buyers have expectations that the produce will yield better quality, a longer shelf life and have a better taste when compared to imported produce from other countries.
- Greater awareness among Thai consumers regarding food safety issues - Australia is perceived as a quality supply source due to the low usage of chemicals in the production process.
- Australia’s relatively close proximity to Thailand allows for a short shipment time that maintains the quality and freshness of produce.
- The Thailand Australia Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA) gives many Australian produce items a competitive advantage over produce imported from other countries.
Produce from the USA has been exported and heavily marketed in Thailand for many years. As buyers gain a greater understanding of the counter seasonality of produce from the northern and southern hemispheres, they are able to make sourcing plans to have a full year’s supply of fresh produce sourced from all over the world.
Produce that can be supplied from a single country all year round, factors such as quality, price competitiveness, supply consistency and the buyer/exporter relationship become more important.
China still supplies large volumes of fresh produce to Thailand due to its competitive pricing, but as food safety awareness is becoming an increasingly important factor in purchasing, Chinese produce is being replaced with produce perceived to be 'cleaner and greener'.
Australia faces strong competition from other southern hemisphere countries such as Peru, Chile, South Africa and New Zealand. It is important to provide support to retailers for promotional activities, to generate awareness of Australian fresh produce and establish it as top of mind amongst consumers versus these competitors.
Tariffs, Regulations and Customs
TAFTA gives Australian produce a competitive advantage as import tariffs have either been eliminated already or be phased down to zero percent by 2015, whereas produce from other countries without a trade agreement with Thailand is subject to import tariffs of 10 to 40 per cent.
As of 2015 table grapes and mandarins have zero import tariffs, but are subjected to Special Agricultural Safeguards (SSG), due to be eliminated in 2016. Once the supplied volumes for table grapes and mandarins exceed specified trigger levels, normal Most Favoured Nation (MFN) tariffs are applied to these products:
- 30 per cent for table grapes
- 40 per cent for mandarins.
The import of horticulture products must comply with Thailand’s Plant Quarantine Act. Commodities classified as regulated products, including fresh fruits, are subject to pest risk analysis and need to comply with the stipulated import conditions.
To date, Thailand has established import protocols for the following Australian fruits:
- table grapes
- kiwi fruit
Australia’s Department of Agriculture and Water Resources continues to work with Thailand’s Department of Agriculture to gain improvements to existing import protocols that will make them more commercially meaningful. For further information regarding conditions for existing import protocols, please visit the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources.
Marketing your products and services
Market entry strategies will vary according to products and segments being targeted. Exporters promote Australia’s unique advantages such as counter seasons, the diverse climate, soil variation and its established image of a clean and safe environment and TAFTA benefits where they exist.
There are a number of strategies that will improve your business dealings with buyers from Thailand:
- Where possible secure local representation through local importers who will take care of your produce and market it on your behalf. However, major retailers will usually have an import division for purchase of fresh produce and prefer to have direct contact with Australian exporters.
- Establish and maintain business relationships with buyers and set aside a sufficient budget for regular visits to study market trends and meet with key buyers to discuss expansion plans, supply availability, seasonal advice and any other issues. Buyers appreciate being kept informed so that they can plan accordingly.
- Provide packaging options and suggest new trends.
- Set a promotional budget for your produce in market. Thai retailers concur that the most effective promotional means is through fresh sampling. Importers/retailers are increasingly looking for this kind of support from their suppliers in order to generate awareness of product or increase sales.
Traditional importers/wholesalers are the main import contacts. Major retailers have begun to set up direct import divisions that source fresh produce worldwide, in addition to a portion of goods purchased from local importers.
Links and industry contacts
Government, business and trade resources for Thailand
Thai Department of Agriculture
Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry
The Bangkok Post
Australian Embassy Bangkok
Australian-Thai Chamber of Commerce
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