- Know your product and understand the markets you are going to try and access
- Be careful on who you do business with and how you do it
- Visit the country first hand to ensure you meet the right people
Q&A with Tim Jones of Wandin Valley Farms
Wandin Valley Farms won the Agribusiness category in the 2015 Governor of Victoria Export Awards.
What do you export and when did you start?
We export fresh cherries and first started around 1990.
What made you decide to start exporting?
We were looking for increased value. Cherries are highly regarded internationally and we can get greater return for them overseas. We were also looking to remove product and reliance on the domestic market.
Why and how did you choose your markets?
We partnered with someone who had contacts in South East Asia. They had a great deal of local knowledge and contacts that we used to get us started.
To start with we were predominately in Hong Kong but over the past 6 – 8 years we have expanded significantly.
We are now in many South East Asian countries including Singapore, Indonesia, Hong Kong and have also entered the Middle East and the UK.
What was your biggest obstacle and how did you work through it?
We didn’t have a good network overseas which is important and we’ve done a couple of things to turn that around. We have partnered with Australia Fruits who act as our main conjugate to overseas markets. We then visited many international destinations in conjunction with Australia Fruits to form a partnership between all three companies.
We also joined a number of Trade Missions. We have been to the Middle East, Malaysia, The Philippines and China on numerous occasions. Each mission has absolutely resulted in increased business for Wandin Valley.
To go into other countries and have the backing of government officials is really highly valued overseas and opens doors we wouldn’t otherwise have access to.
Each trip has been terrific for the business.
What is it that you like most about exporting?
We grow a product that is highly regarded in South East Asia. They look at fresh cherries as the epitome of fresh fruit. It has an extremely high value. Many people in these countries like giving it as gifts to family, friends and colleagues. We can demand a very high price for our product in these markets.
I also really enjoy the travel aspect that the export business allows. It’s always great to see new countries and meet new people.
What’s been the business result with exporting?
We have definitely had increased business growth and financial return but it has also allowed doors to open for greater innovation across the entire industry. With a few other partners we have invested heavily in cherry grading technology. Every cherry gets photographed 30 times before it is packed away. The photos are analysed by computer to look at size, colour, defects, soft spots etc. It’s allowed the industry to improve the quality offered to international markets and has also allowed us to offer a very consistent product.
What advice would you give to businesses thinking about exporting?
Do your homework.
You have to really know your product and understand the markets you are going to try and access. A good way of doing that is through the assistance offered by the international offices of organisations such as the Victorian Government or Austrade. They can help provide a great deal of input into the culture of various countries.
I’d also recommend visiting the country first hand and to make sure you meet the people for yourself before doing business. Most of these countries have been trading for centuries and have distinct cultures around the way they do business.
Don’t dive in – be careful on who you do business with and how you do it. It is definitely worthwhile if you get it right.
Why did you enter the GOVEA awards?
We’d come from nowhere to having quite a bit of success in exporting, so we thought the timing was right to give it a go.
We had also heard a bit about it through attending various trade missions and felt it would be worthwhile.
What has been the change, if any, to your business since receiving the award?
We feel very honoured to have been awarded two export awards.
We use it a great deal in our marketing, particularly at trade shows. If you can talk to customers and say that you’ve been given awards for exporting, especially from the government, it gives you a great deal of credibility.
These awards are extremely well respected in international markets and it really enhances your reputation.
We are looking forward to continuing the relationship with the Victorian Government to increase export sales and break into new markets.
As a result of winning a Governor of Victoria Export Award, Wandin Valley Farms has raised it's international profile, gained government endorsement and enhanced it's reputation.