Fruit and vegetables to Thailand
Trends and opportunities
The Thai fresh produce market is enjoying rapid growth due to high demand from retail, food service and food manufacturing sectors.
Although imported produce remains a luxury item, changes in consumer spending patterns, high levels of tourism plus a large number of expatriates living in Thailand, is driving high levels of competition between fresh food supermarkets, which carry a wide array of imported produce on shelves not just within Bangkok but also in the provincial regions of Thailand.
Fresh produce is one of the main profit-making categories for these retailers, who play close attention to quality and presentation with vivid colour displays to attract high value customers. Many retailers have imported fresh produce displays all year round to serve this rising consumer group.
Common store formats include large hypermarkets, supermarkets and convenience stores, which continue to compete in the market. These retailers provides good opportunities for success in the import produce category.
Thailand is the region’s key food manufacturing hub known as the ‘kitchen to the world’, catering to both the domestic and international markets. New demand in the manufacturing sector for quality raw materials, particularly to supply to those export markets with high food standards, continues to expand, as does Thailand’s strong commitment to international food safety standards.
This commitment means Australian producers can leverage their reputation as safe, quality and traceable suppliers into Thailand’s food manufacturing sector.
Thailand’s foodservice sector also continues to rise as Thais continue to dine out on levels not seen in Australia. The sector continuously strives to serve this rising demand with new trends and new menu offerings to satisfy the urbanised, healthy lifestyle of Thai consumers.
Australian exporters have an opportunity from July to March to export their produce into the Thai market as the domestic (tropical) produce is abundant in Thailand from April- June and tends to dominate during this time.
Local produce remains very popular, is suited to local tastes and retails at significantly lower prices (compared to imported produce). However, recent increased climatic variance has resulted in inconsistent production and higher market prices for domestic seasonal produce, creating a wider window of opportunity for imported supplies.
Based on current demand, consumer preferences and competition, the Thai market is particularly receptive to Australian table grapes, mandarins, summer fruit, apples and pears. Potential opportunities for vegetables include carrots, salad mixes and other leafy greens.
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' supplier. Buyers expect produce from Australia will be of a high standard, have a longer shelf life and taste better when compared to imported produce from other countries.
- Greater awareness of food safety issues amongst Thai consumers. Australia is perceived as a quality supplier due to lower chemical usage in production.
- Australia’s relatively close proximity to Thailand allows for shorter shipment times which maintains the condition 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 (see Tariffs, regulations and customs below).
United States produce has been exported and heavily marketed in Thailand for many years, but as buyers gain a greater understanding of the counter seasonality of produce from northern and southern hemispheres, they can make sourcing plans that enable a full year’s supply of fresh produce exported from around the world.
However, this also brings challenges. For produce that is able to be supplied all year round, factors such as quality, price competitiveness, supply consistency and the buyer/exporter relationship become more important for Thai buyers when deciding where to source.
China remains a large supplier of fresh produce to Thailand due to pricing. Food safety awareness is becoming an important factor in purchasing decisions and Chinese produce is being replaced with products from other suppliers that is deemed to be 'cleaner and greener'.
Australia also faces strong competition from southern hemisphere countries such as Peru, Chile, South Africa and New Zealand.
It is important for Australian suppliers to provide support to retailers for promotional activities, in order to continually build awareness of Australian fresh produce and establish it as top of mind amongst consumers.
Tariffs, Regulations and Customs
The Thailand Australia Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA) gives Australian produce a competitive advantage as import tariffs have been eliminated, whereas produce from other countries without a trade agreement with Thailand is subject to import tariffs of 10 - 40 per cent.
It is important to note that although some produce (such as table grapes and mandarins) have zero import tariffs since 2015, they remain subject to Special Agricultural Safeguards (SSG). This means once supplied volumes exceed specified trigger levels, normal MFN (Most Favoured Nation) tariffs are applied to these products, such as 30 per cent for table grapes, and 40 per cent for mandarins.
Find out more information on import tariffs.
Thailand is currently reviewing its import conditions for all horticultural products, including imports from Australia. Commodities that are classified as regulated products are subject to Pest Risk Analysis (PRA) process and import conditions, before being allowed entry into Thailand.
Import protocols are now in place for table grapes, citrus, apples, pears, kiwifruit, persimmons, avocado, cherries, strawberries, apricots, nectarines, peaches and plums, though trade has not commenced for all these products.
Find out further information regarding conditions for existing import protocols.
Marketing your products and services
Market entry strategies will vary according to products and segments being targeted. Exporters should use Australia’s unique advantages such as counter seasonal produce, diverse climate, soil variation, established image of a clean and safe environment, and TAFTA benefits where they exist, to fully market produce potential.
Strategies to improve your business dealings with buyers from Thailand include:
- Where possible secure local representation through local importers who will take care of your produce and market it on your behalf. Major retailers, however, 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. Set aside sufficient budget for regular visits to the Thai market to study market trends and meet with key buyers to discuss market 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 setting up direct import divisions to source fresh produce worldwide, to supplement goods purchased from local importers.
Links and industry contacts
Government, business and trade
Australian Embassy Bangkok
Australian-Thai Chamber of Commerce
Department of Agriculture and Water Resources
Thai Department of Agriculture
The Bangkok Post
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