CEO Message to industry: Early signs of recovery are emerging

I’m finding it very encouraging to see people out and about in growing numbers as the State opens up and people are finding the new norm in domestic and export seafood markets.

Some regions in South East Asia use vehicle traffic and volumes of people as a simple measure of how the economy is going, and on this basis, I would say we are seeing early signs of recovery.

While businesses are still finding it tough, there is a growing sense of optimism (Victoria aside), particularly in the hospitality and food service sectors as people book out restaurants and the pubs start to fill once again.

The industry recovery plan that was developed by WAFIC and its members at the start of the COVID-19 crisis was initially about stabilising the operating environment and shoring up cash flows before rebuilding our sales pipelines, and we are seeing the early stages of sales growth now emerging.

The WA Government is actively engaged with the seafood industry on this recovery and invited us to attend the Primary Industry Ministerial Roundtable workshop which had a specific focus on recovery plans for the food and primary industries sectors.

Chaired by Alannah MacTiernan, the workshop brought together around 20 industry leaders to meet with senior government executives and Ministers, including Fisheries Minister Peter Tinley.

The group found synergies across sectors on issues such as disruption to transport, market supply channels and the flow-on impacts on hospitality/tourism, however some issues will require more complex solutions.

I can advise that the seafood industry’s recovery plan and proposals were well met and are in line with the broader government goals to drive a quick recovery.

One of the topics raised was the need to move away from transactional-based relationships, particularly in the Asian trade space, and to focus more on supply chain partnerships as a way of improving resilience to major disruptions.

The main outcomes from the roundtable forum were about identifying and developing activities that can quickly and affordably drive economic activity and support local businesses – particularly those that may require some initial support from government, but can then be picked up and driven by the private sector. We are seeing industry members engaging in this now.

Another topic focused on the community groundswell to buy local and proposed that the Food Alliance WA work to repurpose and ‘supercharge’ the Buy West Eat Best brand message to further support preference for local products, local businesses and Western Australians through the difficult recovery process ahead.

Seafood Industry Australia has also provided some good news with the announcement of a $4 million marketing campaign to encourage consumers to buy more Australian seafood. The campaign will provide opportunities for local promotions in WA when it launches in Spring, and we’ll be working to provide this local context.

Export markets have also gained some attention. WAFIC has been working with the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCIWA) to explore opportunities to diversify export markets and encourage digital trade meeting opportunities.

WAFIC is currently developing a proposal to identify and diversify potential markets and to attract investment into WA. This may include the use of an online trade portal as a co-funded project- where products, producers and opportunities can be profiled and shared for business matching in non-contemporary markets such as Taiwan and the Gulf states. Small, bespoke and targeted trade introductions can be facilitated using these digital platforms and early trials of this approach have been encouraging.

I’ll keep you informed as the Roundtable meeting outcomes take firmer shape, but in the meantime I would encourage all industry members to keep talking with your colleagues and please keep WAFIC up to date, feeding the input from your successes, challenges and roadblocks – including freight costs and access – so we can all work together to maximise support for the industry and streamline our recovery.

Warm regards,
Alex Ogg
Chief Executive Officer