CEO Message to Industry

It’s been interesting watching the changing health and economic landscapes across Australia over the last month.

While we are living with only minor restrictions in WA, some of our eastern colleagues are still bunkered down and doing it tough as Australia’s east and west coasts struggle under a two-speed economy.  Western Australia is also blessed with premium iron ore and stable leadership – providing our export sectors a veneer of added protection against Australia’s political brinkmanship with China.

If you were sitting among the recent crowds at Optus Oval it would be easy to think we are on top of COVID-19 in WA, but we can’t be complacent.  There are still have many challenges ahead and the seafood industry will not be exempt. Transport logistics and air freight access remain difficult, particularly as air freight capacity tightens with only three international flights each week and limited access to the Federal Government subsidised IFAM flights for many exporters.

High-yield, high-priority products are getting regular access but smaller, low volume suppliers are facing the dual impacts of limited capacity and super-high freight costs. Our WAFIC team is working with the DPIRD Trade arm and the Freight Council to find ways to mitigate this, so I’ll update as we progress.  Meanwhile domestic tourism is positively humming, with good spin-offs to producers servicing local markets and a strong ‘buy local’ preference.

Seafood Industry Australia is preparing to launch a $4 million national advertising campaign promoting Australian seafood and WAFIC is developing a complementary state-based marketing campaign in parallel, under the Seafood WA brand, which is expected to launch this spring. This will be a major shift in the way WA’s seafood industry engages with consumers and has connections across tourism, retail and hospitality. It’s very exciting and I’ll share more on that in August – watch this space.

Our State Government has just released it’s recovery plan, and there is (literally) some food for thought in there for primary producers.  It’s an aggressive and iterative plan to restore business and consumer confidence by: removing restraints; fast tracking initiatives and projects; investing in infrastructure and; seeking innovation. Growing WA’s food industries and investing in our regions are key priorities.  The report is worth a read.  There’s also a report on the Kimberley region. A breakout specific to the Agri/fishing sector will follow.

Thanks to those members who took time to complete WAFIC’s impact survey.

Not surprisingly, the top three issues facing seafood industry businesses are ‘Finances and cashflows’ (36%), ‘Market access/sales’ (36%) and ‘Transport and freight’ (22%). A majority of members signalled a positive outlook for the future with more than half feeling they will be better off in a year, with that number growing to 70% over a three year period.

This information is critical for WAFIC to understand the current pulse, emerging industry needs and identify future gaps and opportunities, so please keep us informed. We’ll share the survey again next month to monitor changes.

In closing, I would also like to point to a new mental wellness program which is being trailed through our seafood agencies under the SIA banner.

In these challenging times we need to be looking out for each other. Our industry has a reputation for breeding tough and resilient characters, but we need to make sure we are confident enough to ask for help when we need it – and more than one of us have had just cause for stress in recent months. The Federal Government has recognised the seriousness of this and provided $600,000 to support a mental health trial at a national level.

So take care and look out for each other as we unite through our differences.  Roll on August!

Warm regards to all

Alex Ogg
Chief Executive Officer