Markets and marketing

In any production year Australian coriander producers must rely on export markets to clear the majority of production. Drought over the past two years and an appreciating Australian dollar have caused a big change in buying patterns of Australian spice manufacturing companies. Faced with limited production these companies have sourced seed from Canada and India both in the seed and crushed form. Consumer protection laws and health concerns relating to the need to ensure that powders are free of Salmonella, E.-coli, coliforms and wheat glutens have made the overseas crushed powder forms more attractive to buyers. These issues will restrict our domestic sales into the future.

Production during the 1980s through to 1993 was mainly centred in South Australia, but large production areas have been established since then in Victoria, New South Wales, Western Australia and southern Queensland. Production in these areas was aided by the large losses in South Australia from the bacterial wilt (Pseudomonas syringae pv coriandricola) disease.

In the last three years Australian Moroccan coriander producers have been selling into the markets of Japan, Asia, Fiji, Sri Lanka, Maurituis and South Africa. Sale price for crushing is best for seed with a bright golden brown colour; seed that is dark from rain damage at harvest time can be very hard to sell, even at prices 30-40% below good colour lines. With production reduced due to drought the 1,000-1,500 metric tonne crops have been able to sell at values above A$1,200 t delivered to Australian ports with prices reaching A$1,800 t in selected instances. Approximately 50% of this production was sold as sowing seed into Asian markets. The harvest from the 2003-04 growing season is estimated to have exceeded 1,500 t despite reduced crops in New South Wales. The harvest in Western Australia has been estimated at 900 mt.

Approximately 50% of the harvest remains to be sold, with our currency starting to work against the higher opening sales values despite good sales as seed for sowing.

Feedback to date from all main production areas indicates planting areas of Moroccan types will double in the 2004-05 growing season. The harvest can prove hard to sell as the key markets in Indonesia (8-10,000mt /year), Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Fiji and South Africa are being supplied from Bulgarian and adjacent country production at prices well below those indicated as needed by Australian producers. Presently Fiji buys at US$670 t delivered ex Bulgaria versus Australian pricing of US$900 t or more. Even prices from Morocco into China, Japan and Vietnam are cheaper than Australian pricing today.

Markets in Europe were lost to Bulgarian and Russian production in the late 1990s, and Canadian production at that time displaced Australian and Moroccan sales to the United States.

Large-scale production in Australia will only be successful in the future if we can sell to China and regain market share in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Japan and Malaysia for seed and crushing types as well as retaining markets in South Africa and the Pacific. Europe will continue to be difficult to penetrate.

Harvesting Herbs Big Scale

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Fenugreek Seek

Fenugreek plants

Limited contracts from Australian companies exist for Moroccan coriander suitable for sowing, and growers should seek to find them before seeding if at all possible.

Slow-bolting coriander is grown for seed for sowing usually under contract to vegetable seed companies selling into China and Asia. To date all production exceeding 70% germination has been sold and cleared in each year of production. Even seed grown without a contract has been sold.

Production in 2003-04 is estimated to exceed 500 t. New markets in India and increased demand from China will allow increased production this year but not all at the price levels of A$1800 to 2000 t delivered to Australian ports as has been possible over the last two years is the strength of our currency is working against Australian sellers. Growers must ensure the stock seed they use to grow these crops is well known to the buyers as they will not buy unless they have had experience with the growth and leafiness of the variety.

Fenugreek production in Australia has always relied on overseas buying because of limited demand by Australian spice companies. Australian consumption is estimated to be in the range of 150-200 t/yr.

Small lots are used for seeding as green manure crops in cereal and orchard rotations.

Production in Australia until 1999 was in the range of 400-500 mt/yr, with most going overseas to Europe and the United States. However, in the past four years production in Victoria is believed to have exceeded 3,000 mt based on industry estimates, with smaller areas in South Australia, Queensland, Western Australia and New South Wales.

It is estimated that by September 2004 over 50% of this production was unsold. Our growers have not been prepared to accept world price levels.

The largest world producer is India and its pricing of US$400-495 t delivered to European ports (Europe is the largest market) has not been attractive to Australian producers.

Markets in New York have always been at risk because of the US quarantine requiring freedom from wheat seeds; however, current requirements to satisfy the US counter-terrorism procedures on foodstuffs have made exporting to this market very costly.

Seller offers of A$475 t delivered to Australian ports are well above buyer bids of A$400/t.

Because of the large Indian crop, Australia will always find fenugreek a low-return crop in the range of A$250-300 t ex farm.

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