When a group of outback graziers joined forces more than 20 years ago to form Australia’s first organic beef export business (yes, OBE Organic), they had to learn quickly. They had generations of experience in raising cattle, but knew nothing about exporting or even selling beef to domestic consumers.
Lots of farmers have the same idea to sell their produce direct to consumers, but many struggle with the inevitable challenges along the way.
As a farmer-owned business run to benefit farmers, we are happy to share our top tips about cracking export markets.
- Find great importers or distributors. When you enter an export market, you need to meet very specific market and customer requirements. Working with trusted local importers who have experience handling your product makes this process so much easier.
- Use Australia’s government or industry agencies to find great importers or distributors. Austrade and state trade agencies (in our case, Trade and Investment Queensland) and Meat and Livestock Australia have offices in key markets and are incredibly valuable in finding potential partners, setting up meetings or providing advice. Sometimes, you will need to pay for their service, but in our experience, it’s well worth it.
- Spread you risk. Having all your product go to one customer or country might sound impressive, but you will be exposed if you lose that customer or import requirements change. We try to spread our sales between domestic, North American, Asian and Middle Eastern markets.
- Spend time with your customers. We’re lucky: OBE Organic has the best organic beef in the world, with the best story in the world. But even our distinctive organic grassfed beef doesn’t sell itself. Each year our sales team travel thousands of kilometres meeting with potential customers and building stronger relationships with existing loyal customers. For example, in March we had a Sales Executive in the US doing in-store sampling, speaking to customers, and attending a trade show; another Executive spoke to customers in Hong Kong and Japan; our Managing Director travelled through the Middle East for two weeks speaking to new and prospective customers; and of course we visited our customers in Australia.
And perhaps most importantly, have a great product that you believe in. Good luck!