At a time when most of Australia is in drought and farmers are facing hardship, Ballarat’s Meredith Dairy is an exporting premium food success story.
The company’s distinctive glass jars of marinated goats cheese first appeared at growers’ markets in rural Victoria in 1993. Twenty-seven years later, the family farm’s marinated and chèvre cheeses are on supermarket shelves across Australia.
And with a major new contract with Costco in the US, Meredith Dairy is now shipping own-brand goat’s cheese to North America at a rate of one container every two weeks.
‘Our exports are growing faster than the rest of our business – at over 20% per year,’ says Meredtih Dairy’s National Export and Sales Manager, Mr Rugby Wilson.
‘Last year (2018), exports were 17% of our turnover and it’s largely thanks to Australia’s free trade agreement with the United States that our competitive position continues to improve,’ says Rugby.
‘When we started exporting in 2005 we paid a 9% entry tariff, but that tariff has fallen by 0.5% every year and now it’s on the verge of disappearing.’
Exporting has proved a commercial boost for Meredith Dairy, which still makes and packages its cheeses at a family farmstead outside Ballarat.
Australia’s participation in the 2018 Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) is also impacting the dairy company’s prospects.
The CPTPP provides additional quotas for cheese exporters to enter the Canadian market. This frees Australian dairy companies from having to compete against European cheese makers for Canadian quotas.
‘Canada is a great market for premium foods,’ says Rugby. ‘The separate CPTPP quota means it’s far easier – and far cheaper – for us to get into Canada than before.’
For Australian premium food producers who want to grow their brands in North America, Rugby recommends working directly with Austrade in North America.
‘We worked with Austrade in San Francisco and in Washington, and their industry networks helped us to start building relationships,’ he says. ‘In Washington, we engaged Austrade as a commercial partner and they were incredibly helpful to us.’
Austrade is holding a series of seminars in Tasmania to help business people understand the benefits of accessing the Free Trade Agreements program.