Brussels, 16 October 2023 – Australia is on the up as an export destination for Belgian food and drinks. Last year the country made its first appearance in the top 5 of overseas export destinations, thereby outperforming well-established markets such as South Korea and Canada. The upcoming European-Australian trade agreement is certain to lend even more of a boost to the food and beverage trade. Which means the economic mission to Australia, set to get under way by the end of the week, comes at the perfect time for the Belgian food producers keen to make inroads into this market or eager to expand their market share.
Going up in the Land Down Under
Australians are true foodies. As a multicultural society they take a cosmopolitan interest in food. They are not likely to turn down a nice juicy piece of Black Angus beef on the barbecue, but they are equally interested in trends such as organic, vegetarian and vegan food or ‘free from’ products. Which explains why Australia waxed to become the fifth biggest overseas export market for the Belgian food industry, representing 119 million euros in turnover in 2022.
Be that as it may, it is not an easy market for exporters. The country is home to a substantial agricultural sector and Australians love home-grown products. Moreover, as it is an island, fresh fruit, vegetables and meat are not allowed to be imported out of fear of diseases. Which makes Australia as a sales market especially of interest to processed food producers. There is a lot of interest in frozen fruit, vegetables and potato products. The fact of the matter being that when it is winter in Australia, we have summer in Belgium, which means they import what they do not have in stock themselves at these times.
This explains why frozen and chilled ready meals are in great demand in the country. Belgian biscuits and chocolates are firm favourites, with our waffles currently all the rage down under. For Belgian pilsner beers, with a 6 to 9-month sell-by date, Australia is not really worthwhile because of the long journey times. Belgian special beers have a strong reputation down under but they are expensive due to the high excise duties on alcohol. With Belgium getting the ‘all clear’ on the swine fever front, Belgian pork is now again allowed to be exported, but it is currently not competitive compared to cheaper Brazilian pork.
Trade agreement EU-Australia makes exports tariff-free
Negotiations with Australia on a free trade agreement have reached their final stage. Apart from certain so-called “sensitive products”, like meat and dairy, trade between Australia and the EU is to be completely liberalized. Once the agreement takes effect, no more custom duties will thus apply over finished food and beverages.
Belgium set out two priorities for the negotiations: tariff-free exports, of frozen vegetables in particular, and the harmonisation of food safety regulations. Belgium would also like to see the classification of certain Belgian fruit beers modified. The currently are classified as “alcopops”, over which the same high excise duties apply as those for spirits. On the defensive side, Belgium requested cast iron safeguard clauses to protect the meat and dairy sectors from unduly fierce Australian competition.
Earlier this year, the EU signed “the greenest trade agreement ever” with New Zealand, setting out ambitious undertakings in the areas of trade and sustainable development. The agreement also contains enforceable undertakings on climate targets and worker rights as well as commitments to do with the circular economy and deforestation. This is also the first European trade agreement to devote a separate chapter to sustainable food systems and animal welfare. The agreement with Australia is expected to be in the same vein.
In this respect, it is also important to be aware that the transport of food represents just 6% of total CO2 emissions in food production. In terms of climate considerations, it is therefore more important to consider what people are eating and how that food has been produced rather than where it is from.
Great interest in the food delegation
There is a great deal of Australian interest in the Belgian food companies. The Belgian companies have lined up meetings with buyers from Woolworths, which - along with Coles – rules the Australian retail market, and with buyers from Aldi, which has become the third biggest player on the market. They will also be meeting up with importers, distributors and experts from the retail, foodservice and hospitality sectors who will show the Belgians how to find their way around the Australian market.
+32 (0)498 58 62 05
Fevia contact person as part of the delegation
International Business Director
+32 (0)478 26 74 72
Fevia assists and supports Belgian food companies in creating sustainable value, in joint consultation with all stakeholders. As the federation of the Belgian food industry, we represent 27 sub-sectors and over 750 member companies, which jointly account for close to 90% of all the jobs and all turnover of the sector.
The food industry is the frontrunner in the overall Belgian industrial sector, accounting for over 100,000 jobs and representing 76 billion euros in turnover, of which 35 billion euros derives from exports. As the mouthpiece of the Belgian food industry, Fevia represents over 4,200 companies that produce top quality and innovative food and beverages in Belgium. “Food.be – Small country. Great food.” is the promotional brand name under which Fevia trains the spotlight on the industry’s strong suits across the globe.