New export hub to help Ulladulla Fishermen’s Co-op grow sales

Tuna Australia, the industry body for tuna longline fishing, has welcomed the creation of the Shoalhaven Export Hub.

“This is an excellent initiative that will support export businesses on the NSW south coast, like Tuna Australia member Ulladulla Fishermen’s Co-operative, to grow their sales and increase local jobs,” said Tuna Australia CEO David Ellis.

Speaking at the hub’s launch in November 2020, Mayor Amanda Findley said a key aim of the initiative is to help established export businesses to expand.

“Membership of the Shoalhaven Export Hub is free, offering a collaborative business-to-business network to help small and medium-sized businesses harness opportunities in global markets,” she said.

“The hub works to overcome the barriers for local business to break through into international markets and will work with local businesses to build their skills and know-how.”

‘Very beneficial’

For Ulladulla Fishermen’s Co-operative, which has been operating since 1956 and exporting tuna since the 1980s, the support provided by the hub so far has been “very beneficial,” said manager Jason Apps.

The hub provides seminars, workshops, and networking activities to develop skills and contacts for members.

“Advice provided through the hub has helped the co-op with all of our legal responsibilities,” said Apps. “If you are not up to date with the many export and import regulations, it’s easy to get produce delayed somewhere, which is not ideal for perishables such as fresh wild-caught tuna.”

The hub is part of a two-year project that is 50 percent funded by the Australian Government through its AusIndustry arm and Austrade.

Senator visit to the Shoalhaven area

On 12 February 2021, members of the Shoalhaven Export Hub were pleased to meet with Senator the Hon. Marise Payne, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Women, and Senator Jim Molan AO DSC.

During the visit, Apps explained how the International Freight Assistance Mechanism (IFAM) and the communication with Austrade has helped the Fishermen’s Co-op to continue exporting during COVID.

“Yellowfin and Bluefin tuna processed by the Co-op are trucked to Sydney in time for the few international flights out of Australia. While it is costing more to get the fish overseas with COVID, for the co-op, and with IFAM assistance it is still worthwhile to export produce,” said Apps.

During the senators’ visit, Apps also spoke of the need to streamline the use of workers on 457 visas in Australia.

New opportunities

The Fishermen’s Co-op, like most Tuna Australia members, exports the majority of their catch via airfreight to overseas markets such as Japan, the United States, and Europe.

Exporting requires a whole suite of additional considerations such as traceability, biosecurity, quality, and regulatory controls, said Tuna Australia Program Manager Phil Ravanello.

“This can be a quite daunting task for an industry looking to diversify export markets. Knowing that there is support and experience available to help navigate these issues is very reassuring.

“The export hub can also help the co-op to navigate the challenges created by COVID and other shocks experienced in the last 18 months such as fires and floods,” said Ravanello.

Boats weighing in southern bluefin tuna at the Ulladulla Co-op. Photo by Jason Apps.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the co-op and all tuna producers, who are based in ports spread along the eastern seaboard and include Cairns, Mooloolaba, Coffs Harbour, Port Stephens, Ulladulla, and Bermagui.

Ravanello said the export hub could “align nicely” with other work that Tuna Australia has been leading around market diversification and resilience.

In 2020, Tuna Australia developed a new roadmap to highlight opportunities for tuna longline producers to better harness the Australian market and leverage strong global demand for seafood.

“There will always be an export market for whole premium wild-caught tuna. However, there are international and domestic market opportunities for value-added produce that are separate from our traditional markets,” said Ravanello of the roadmap findings.

If producers do more product development and value-adding in Australia, these products could be exported to new markets while meeting new domestic demand.

“This would create more local jobs. Value-added produce with extended shelf-life could also be shipped overseas for less cost using sea freight.

“Linking these threads of opportunity together will ensure the co-op, the broader tuna industry, and other Shoalhaven businesses can harness local and export opportunities despite today’s tough economic environment,” said Ravanello.

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