‘Great opportunity’: Little Tuna delights French Ambassador with fresh sashimi

French Ambassador to Australia, the Hon. Mr. Jean-Pierre Thébault, at the Little Tuna shop and processing facility on 17 June 2022.

What do you serve to the French Ambassador to Australia who calls himself a passionate foodie?

Thin slices of fresh-caught yellowfin tuna coated in a rub incorporating the traditional flavours of Japan.

That was what Tuna Australia members Rowan and Kate Lamason from Little Tuna offered His excellency Jean-Pierre Thébault during his visit to their shop, Cairns Little Seafood Market, on Friday 17 June.

“He tried all our tuna. He said French people really enjoy their seafood and it made him think of his time visiting Japan,” said Rowan.

He was so excited and enthusiastic. It was great to get his opinion on our product.”

Little Tuna was one of a handful of agriculture and food businesses that His Excellency visited during his one-week tour of north Queensland to explore trade, export and investment opportunities.

“It’s very exciting to come to a place like the tropical north because there is a reputation of quality,” he said.

“French people enjoy beautiful food and we are looking to source high-quality produce during the northern hemisphere winter when we cannot produce the food ourselves.”

French Ambassador to Australia, the Hon. Mr. Jean-Pierre Thébault, with Little Tuna owners Rowan and Kate Lamason.

The visit was a “great opportunity”, said Rowan.

“If the ambassador goes back to France and tells one person about the taste of the tropics and the quality produce we have, then it might open a new door for exporting into France,” he said.

“If we can get our produce into France, then it has the potential to open up all of Europe.”

Tuna Australia CEO David Ellis was part of the visit and discussed the many challenges of sending produce to Europe with the ambassador, including freight availability, freight cost and trade barriers.

The ambassador made a commitment to progress these issues back in Canberra to see how the French government can assist to facilitate access to Australian produce to France.

Rowan said that the next step is to “come up with product ideas for export”.

“We need to look at where the opportunities are, be it for high-end sashimi, value-added sashimi or pre-packaged tuna loins,” he said.

I’d love the opportunity to showcase our tuna around the world. I would put it up against any processed tuna because I know it is some of the best in the world.”

New horizons

Media coverage of the visit, organised by Regional Development Australia Tropical North, was a coup for the business.

“The visit featured on the local news that night,” said Kate, who started the business with her husband Rowan in early 2017.

“People from Noosa contacted us straight away, asking where they can get our tuna. We got a bunch of emails from people down the coast.”

Little Tuna. Photo by Sheridan Lindee.

Little Tuna. Photo by Sheridan Lindee.

Besides the domestic market, where more than 130 stockists sell Little Tuna products, the business is also eyeing overseas markets.

“Now that international and domestic borders have opened up, we hope to start exporting our product,” said Kate.

“We were looking more at exporting to Asia, but because of the ambassador’s reaction to the product, we’ve now got Europe on our radar as well,” said Kate.

As a keepsake, Little Tuna gifted the ambassador some jars of their high-quality preserved tuna.

“But he’d received so much stuff [from the businesses he had visited], he had to put it on a truck,” Rowan said with a smile.

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