Posts Tagged ‘ marketing ’

Issue 92: Herbs… More than just a bit on the side

January/February – 2007
Author: Lisa Crooks

LISA CROOKS reports on the Second Workshop of the Australian Herb and Spice Industry Association. A major outcome of the workshop was strong support for a Herb Levy for industry research, development and marketing.

Analysing the growth rate in comparison to many other vegetables, herbs in Australia have performed extremely competitively in the market place. With a touch of innovation and some new marketing strategies, there is a whole new playing field out there for the taking.

In early September, the Australian Herb & Spice Industry Association (AHSIA) held its second workshop at the beautiful Hahndorf Resort in South Australia. The workshop programme focused on the market place: “Where it is… and where it is going?”

Hahndorf Resort in the Adelaide Hills, South Australia.

Anita Watts, Glenelg River Rosemary Farm, and Vivek Bhat, Lawie Co Biological Services

Conference delegates Robert Hayes (AHSIA President), Jane Parker, Jude Bennison (UK), Rodger and Jo-Ann Aay, and Liz Minchinton.

The workshops
Tom Rafferty started off the day. Tom has 25 years experience in a wide range of supply chain and marketing roles in Ireland, the USA and Australia. He tells it as he sees it. The main message was: “You decide … get big, get niche, get marketing and supply chain savvy with branding, new channels, and export, or GET OUT!”

Diversity or value adding is a common phrase used today; but what options are out there for the growers? The best way to analyze this is to start with what the consumer is asking for. Does the consumer only want fresh quality Australian produce? Is it just to garnish, or an addition to their favourite dish? Is there a whole new market out there?

Patrick Haynes, marketing manager of Gourmet Garden, who has a role that spans seven countries with a distribution footprint covering 13,500 stores. Patrick pointed out that culinary herbs and spices contain high concentrations of antioxidants and phytonutrients, and provide long-term health benefits that outweigh their short-term taste sensations. So compelling is the evidence that leading Australian and American nutrition and health experts say “the forgotten foods” should be recognised as a food group and included in dietary guidelines and food models. Through their aromatic oils, herbs and spices deliver intense flavours and food satisfaction. Herbs and spices can replace fat, sugar and salt in our food, make vegetables and bland foods like grains and legumes tastier, and assist in weight management by making low fat food more appetizing.

Chinese herbs
To enhance what Patrick was saying we also heard from Brian May, the project officer for Chinese herbal farming, City of Whittlesea (RMIT), who pointed out most Chinese herbs are imported from China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Japan. Some Chinese medicines are manufactured in Australia – mainly from imported produce. Most domestically produced herbal medicines that use Australian-grown herbs are aimed at the Western herbal market – few use Chinese herbs.

Chinese herbs are retailed via Asian grocery stores and supermarkets, specialist Chinese herb shops, prescriptions by Chinese medicine practitioners, health food stores, mail-order, and online. There are an increasing number of Chinese herbs being used by Western herbalists, naturopaths, and medical practitioners.

Functional foods
Currently, Professor James Chin is program leader for functional foods and immunology with NSW DPI and is also an industry consultant on prebiotics, probiotics and synbiotics…development of new formulations for intestinal health. James looked at value-adding for the Herb and Spice Industry of Australia, and assigning health promoting functionalities of herbs/spices from being optional to becoming an essential food ingredient.

Mediherbs
Peter Purbrick has been with Mediherb for 19 years and highlighted the current focus for complementary medicine as being an aging population, weight loss, infertility, menopause, thyroid function, liver function, prostate support, immune functions, antioxidants, tiredness/stress conditions, inflammatory conditions, and tonics for males and females. He named the 22 high demand herbs, and also the 20 herbs they are trying to source within Australia.

Herbs in high demand
Celery Licorice
Ginger Bacopa
Chastetree Andrographis
Withania Gotu Kola
Goldenseal Calendula
Black Cohosh Valerian
Eyebright Bilberry
Damiana Gymnema
Chamomille Wild Yam
Saw Palmetto St Mary’s Thistle
Rosemary
Echinacea

Herbs MediHerb would like to source in Australia
Globe Artichoke Mexican Valerian
Skullcap Poke Root
Golden Rod True Unicorn
Passionflower St Mary’s Thistle Seed
Meadowsweet Sarsaparilla
Peppermint Baptisa
Pasque Flower Blue Flag
Ladies Mantle Gentian
Wood Betony Blue Cohosh
Grindellia

Latest developments
Ensuring your herb is grown with the best technology available, AHSIA also included in the Workshop the latest in research and development happening here and around the world.

Dr Elizabeth Minchinton, DPI, Knoxfield. Her principal area is plant pathology with special interests in bacteriology and bacterial diseases, disease management and control, foliar pathogens and diseases, and integrated pest/disease management. Liz presented her findings and outcomes of her parsley project and the book release, Guide to common diseases and disorders of parsley. She also announced that she has just received confirmation for her new project for controlling dieback in Queensland, looking also at salinity issues and biological and other chemical options including resistant and tolerant varieties.

James Altmann is director of Biological Services, a company that produces beneficial insects and mites for the biological control of horticultural pests. James is a partner in Fruit Doctors, a crop monitoring service operating in the Riverland, SA. James presented the Integrated Pest Management concept available to growers.

Jude Bennison is from ADAS, the UK’s largest provider of environment and rural solutions and policy advice. Jude is a world leader in the use of beneficial insects in protected herb crops in the UK. Jude took us through the issues for IPM on protected herbs, best practice guidelines project, and some problems with pests and diseases. She also highlighted biological/integrated control strategies. Her job is ensuring the message gets out to the growers.

Allan Norden (APVMA) and John Oakeshott.

Alan Norden has been involved in the assessment of crop protection products with the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) for the past 12 years. Alan’s talk covered current issues relating specifically to AHSIA’s needs. He also outlined the reforms and initiatives being developed to assist minor use industries access safe and effective crop protection products. Herbs currently have 33 permits, with 41 applications under consideration – 10 identified as priority applications.

Towards the future
After a mentally stimulating day, we began the next challenge – looking towards the future for the herb industry in Australia. Herb levies: to be or not to be… After hearing from Stuart Burgess from Horticulture Australia about the procedures and also the pros and cons for creating a Herb Levy, this motion was put to a vote that achieved unanimous support. The Australian Herb & Spice Industry Association initiated the process leading to the introduction of a statutory levy to enable research, development and marketing for the industry. I have included the media release from Mr Robert Hayes, the President of AHSIA:

ASHIA Media release
The Australian Herb & Spice Industry Association (AHSIA) held its Annual General Meeting for 2006 following the annual Workshop, at Hahndorf in the Adelaide Hills at 4pm on Monday September 4.

Apart from the usual formalities and after some considerable discussion a motion was carried unanimously, as follows: “That the Australian Herb & Spice Industry Association Ltd initiate the process leading to the introduction of a statutory levy to enable research and development and marketing for the industry.”

The rationale behind the motion was simple – AHSIA is undertaking research and development on behalf of all who participate in the industry, now and into the future. Crucial work such as the applications for minor use permits for crop protectants for herbs, minor use applications for new softer and more effective crop protectants, and the development of new biocontrol agents, are central to all growers and other supply chain participants – wholesalers, retailers (small and large) and ultimately, to the consumer. Allied with this is the need to develop crop specific Integrated Pest Management techniques and protocols and contribute to IPM research. Our domestic crop protection regime also needs to be referenced and where possible harmonised to International Standards so as to enable herb and processed herb exports. As the industry grows and matures, marketing will also become an issue.

This is vital research, fundamental to the industry’s future, and yet it is being carried by a relatively few active players in the industry who contribute both financially and with their time. This situation is not sustainable in the long term, with the introduction of a statutory levy providing a way for the whole of the industry to fund the research and development required, as well as the organization itself. With a professionally run organization, participation from the industry will be far more attractive, than is the current situation where much is done on a voluntary basis, and a few carry the load.

Horticulture Australia Ltd (HAL) made a short presentation to the Workshop and were present at the meeting. HAL is the agency which receives matching government funding and manages the total levy pool on behalf of the Industry. We understand that it is possible for AHSIA to maintain the direction of how the levy funds raised shall be spent – in other words, the industry retains direct control over how the available funds are to be expended. It is possible to have the only currently levied herb, parsley, included in the proposed Herb Levy. The rate of the levy can also be at the industry’s discretion initially, and then requires a further vote for any alteration.

In short, it is possible for AHSIA to seek the introduction of a levy structured in a way and for purposes it sees as the most appropriate for its needs, and retain control of the direction of those funds. It would not have to become a part of the Veg Levy and be lost in the larger industry.

The process for the introduction of a statutory levy involves a number of steps including; a detailed consultation process with the industry, the development of a “voting roll”, an industry vote, developing the “case” for the introduction of a levy and presenting a detailed proposal to the Minister. The proposal is then advertised and objections invited for a 60-day period. Only then will the Minister consider whether to introduce a Herb Levy.

Such a process will take at least 12 to 18 months and perhaps longer if other recent industry experience is any guide. AHSIA cannot simply ask the Minister to introduce a levy, and the Minister may ultimately reject any proposal despite the proposal going through the entire process.

Despite the uncertainties, AHSIA is convinced that the industry urgently needs an industry levy for research, development and marketing. We believe the industry now has sufficient critical mass to fund, via a levy, and with the matching $ for $ government assistance, its current and future R&D and marketing needs. It will ultimately be decided by the Industry and by the Minister – AHSIA’s role will be one of championing and facilitating the process, and that direction has been set by its members. This association is the only active peak industry body representing the interests of the Australian herb industry to Government and taking an active role in shaping your industry’s future growth. AHSIA will now commence the process of developing a proposal to establish a national levy on herbs to be put to industry and then the Minister.

We ask all participants in the industry to join AHSIA or at least participate in the debate along the way. We welcome constructive criticism and input and look forward to your response as the process unfolds.

Robert Hayes
President Australian Herb & Spice Industry Association Ltd

Farm tours
By this stage of the day, we were ready for a drink or two topped off with a delightful dinner served at the Sterling Hotel, while being entertained by the very vibrant local foodie and radio personality, Cath Kerry.

The staff were as friendly as the owners at Murray Bridge – one of 300 glasshouses.

This was just one of the 300 glasshouses; some herbs were in-ground, others were grown in styrene boxes on the ground.

The farm tour the following day took us to two of Aay’s fresh herb farms. Roger and Jo-ann Aay are second-generation farmers that have planted a future for their children. The Murray Bridge farm is where it began – a 20-acre property which now holds 300 glasshouses altogether. In July this year they started the organic certification process for the farm at Monarrto, which is 150 acres and grows 24 different types of herbs.

Chris Weir representing the Murraylands Regional Development Board.

The 150 acre farm at Monarrto in the early start of the organic certification process.

We also met up with Chris Weir of the Murraylands Regional Development Board, who summarised what is happening within South Australia:

Food SA has 12 regions through South Australia. Food SA is a SA Government Agency responsible for food industry development – working with food businesses of all sizes in all regions. It concentrates on implementing the State Food Plan, which outlines the strategic issues of the food industry.

The network is industry driven with ‘food groups’ around the state representing their own region and working on developing their capabilities, but using the whole State to solve issues. Chairs of food groups regularly meet together with the Premier’s Food Council to discuss regional and State issues. Food officers in each region exist as part of the State Plan and regularly meet to discuss issues, develop food groups and regional strategies, and integration of food industry plans into regional economic development plans. There must be a core of passionate, strategically minded people involved in the food groups to get them going and keep them going. Food groups must be run like a business with business and financial plans, vision and a constant stream of energetic people to renew the group.

The Murraylands
The Murraylands Regional Development Board (MRDB) covers a region of some 27,000 square kilometres and produces 40% of the state’s potatoes and onions, 30% of the carrots, and a staggering 50% of milk production, with a new focus on pig production and slaughter. The area is concentrated on large-scale businesses, many dealing with large corporations such as Coles/Bi Lo and Woolworths. Agri-food businesses are worth $816 million per year to the region. Membership-driven programs run in conjunction with five regional councils and Food SA. Large and small businesses, but the large ones are very focused on large clients, and exporting.

There is a specialist manufacturing sector in the region. ‘Exporting the Murraylands’ is working to increase business capabilities as well as working with the other regions to achieve the State Food Plan. A regional brand is in development for use in the project.

The MRDB and Food SA act as conduits to assist the businesses rather than to drive the growth, as this must come from the business within each region but also work with the tourism industry.

The intensive animal industry has identified the Murraylands as one of the key areas in South Australia for growth. The dairy industry commissioned a study to look at farming in the Mallee where there is plenty of quality ground water and cheap land.

The Clifford Report identified prospects for 3,000 jobs conservatively over the next two years in the region with business growth, which includes Aays herbs in Monarrto.

Challenges for the region will include: labour availability, water accessibility for farm operations, and assistance in development of new industries. Future opportunities will include targeting and marketing of regional brands, pig industry development, value-adding particularly in horticulture, and the possible introduction of a regional hub for storage and distribution.

Final remarks
Another milestone change for AHSIA. We now have a talented quality assurance manager that brings his wealth of knowledge onboard to better the industry. Mr Allan Bugg from Barden Fresh Produce, a Sydney-based produce company, stands in my place as one of the Directors for AHSIA. I offer my support and congratulations to Allan. I decided to stand down this year as director for AHSIA as along with the farms and my husband; I have two young boys who still need their mum while they grow into young men. While I will not carry the role of director, I still have a strong desire to help the industry grow and will still very much be involved in many different aspects of the industry.

I look forward to next year’s workshop, although this one will be hard to beat. This conference proved that herbs are more than just a bit on the side.

ASHIA Media release
The Australian Herb & Spice Industry Association (AHSIA) held its Annual General Meeting for 2006 following the annual Workshop, at Hahndorf in the Adelaide Hills at 4pm on Monday September 4. Apart from the usual formalities and after some considerable discussion a motion was carried unanimously, as follows:

“That the Australian Herb & Spice Industry Association Ltd initiate the process leading to the introduction of a statutory levy to enable research and development and marketing for the industry.”

The rationale behind the motion was simple – AHSIA is undertaking research and development on behalf of all who participate in the industry, now and into the future. Crucial work such as the applications for minor use permits for crop protectants for herbs, minor use applications for new softer and more effective crop protectants, and the development of new biocontrol agents, are central to all growers and other supply chain participants – wholesalers, retailers (small and large) and ultimately, to the consumer. Allied with this is the need to develop crop specific Integrated Pest Management techniques and protocols and contribute to IPM research. Our domestic crop protection regime also needs to be referenced and where possible harmonised to International Standards so as to enable herb and processed herb exports. As the industry grows and matures, marketing will also become an issue.

This is vital research, fundamental to the industry’s future, and yet it is being carried by a relatively few active players in the industry who contribute both financially and with their time. This situation is not sustainable in the long term, with the introduction of a statutory levy providing a way for the whole of the industry to fund the research and development required, as well as the organization itself. With a professionally run organization, participation from the industry will be far more attractive, than is the current situation where much is done on a voluntary basis, and a few carry the load.

Horticulture Australia Ltd (HAL) made a short presentation to the Workshop and were present at the meeting. HAL is the agency which receives matching government funding and manages the total levy pool on behalf of the Industry. We understand that it is possible for AHSIA to maintain the direction of how the levy funds raised shall be spent – in other words, the industry retains direct control over how the available funds are to be expended. It is possible to have the only currently levied herb, parsley, included in the proposed Herb Levy. The rate of the levy can also be at the industry’s discretion initially, and then requires a further vote for any alteration.

In short, it is possible for AHSIA to seek the introduction of a levy structured in a way and for purposes it sees as the most appropriate for its needs, and retain control of the direction of those funds. It would not have to become a part of the Veg Levy and be lost in the larger industry.

The process for the introduction of a statutory levy involves a number of steps including; a detailed consultation process with the industry, the development of a “voting roll”, an industry vote, developing the “case” for the introduction of a levy and presenting a detailed proposal to the Minister. The proposal is then advertised and objections invited for a 60-day period. Only then will the Minister consider whether to introduce a Herb Levy. Such a process will take at least 12 to 18 months and perhaps longer if other recent industry experience is any guide. AHSIA cannot simply ask the Minister to introduce a levy, and the Minister may ultimately reject any proposal despite the proposal going through the entire process.

Despite the uncertainties, AHSIA is convinced that the industry urgently needs an industry levy for research, development and marketing. We believe the industry now has sufficient critical mass to fund, via a levy, and with the matching $ for $ government assistance, its current and future R&D and marketing needs. It will ultimately be decided by the Industry and by the Minister – AHSIA’s role will be one of championing and facilitating the process, and that direction has been set by its members. This association is the only active peak industry body representing the interests of the Australian herb industry to Government and taking an active role in shaping your industry’s future growth. AHSIA will now commence the process of developing a proposal to establish a national levy on herbs to be put to industry and then the Minister.

We ask all participants in the industry to join AHSIA or at least participate in the debate along the way. We welcome constructive criticism and input and look forward to your response as the process unfolds.

Robert Hayes
President
Australian Herb & Spice Industry Association Ltd

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