Seafood and fishing industry stakeholders have welcomed legislative changes that will allow the FRDC to take on the marketing and promotion of Australia’s world-class fish and seafood produce, and promote recreational fishing or even the world-leading management practices that underpin its fisheries.
In recent years, the FRDC has supported many market-focused research projects, but has had no capacity to undertake marketing and promotional activities in response to the findings. The legislative changes now allow the FRDC to link research, development and extension to marketing, as part of a natural progression to improved outcomes for the industry.
The changes are expected to improve the industry’s productivity and profitability, and allow its many diverse stakeholders to collectively address public perceptions of fishing and aquaculture in the Australian community.
The Rural Research and Development Legislation Amendment Bill 2013 was passed by Federal Parliament on 12 December 2013. It extends the scope and range of activities the FRDC can undertake by amending its enabling legislation, the Primary Industries Research and Development Act 1989 (PIRD Act).
The FRDC’s executive director, Patrick Hone, says the changes have been a long time coming, with many staff and industry representatives working hard to establish a marketing and promotion capacity for more than a decade.
“The FRDC is, at its core, a research organisation,” Patrick Hone says. “It is what we are, and what we do well. This will not change; it underpins our reputation as an independent, evidence-based organisation. Any marketing or promotion we undertake will adhere to the same rules and standards as our other activities.”
In line with this, it is very important for all stakeholders to know that the FRDC will not be able to use the marketing functions to undertake advocacy. There is a clear separation between the FRDC’s role and that of the industry, Patrick Hone says.
Patrick Hone says the legislative changes will not affect existing operations. New activities will only be activated in response to a request from the industry or an industry sector. Industry has to want to establish a collective marketing function. Any additional activities must add value to current operations.
The FRDC’s communications manager, Peter Horvat, is taking on an expanded role as a group manager of communications, trade and marketing activities. He says the focus during the next six months will be firmly on consultation, engagement and communication with industry.
The FRDC will not be employing any marketing staff in the near future. However, if industry comes on board, the FRDC would look for the most cost-effective approach to get the result industry is after.
The reality is the FRDC has limited funding, provided via the Australian Seafood Cooperative Research Centre, for any marketing activities. The focus must be to work with industry to identify the key areas and approaches for investment.
“We need to listen to what stakeholders want to do and what they perceive as the key areas of marketing to develop. We have heard over the past few years that a priority for industry, in general, is to address the perceptions held by the community around the industry,” Peter Horvat says.
“We have also seen some industry sectors being very proactive in developing voluntary activities: for example, the wild-catch abalone industry targeting China and the prawn sector developing the ‘Love Australian Prawns’ campaign. But the FRDC will not be taking anything for granted or second-guessing what industry wants.”
The initial process the FRDC will work through with stakeholders will have two key components.
“The FRDC must gain an understanding of what the end users (payers) want and what their expectations are. This will be the foundation for developing our marketing implementation plan,” Peter Horvat says.
Some areas already suggested for possible promotional investment include improving the industry’s image, selling more produce, increasing consumption, improving market development and access, and increasing angler participation.
Industry members who have a view on the industry’s marketing and promotion, or who would simply like more information should contact Peter Horvat on 02 6285 0400, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Two major strategic documents – the National Fisheries and Aquaculture Research, Development and Extension Strategy and the FRDC’s Research, Development and Extension Plan – need to be revised for release in 2015.
Patrick Hone, FRDC executive director, will oversee the planning and consultation for the development of these documents. Over the coming 12 months, the FRDC will use a range of approaches to ensure stakeholders are consulted and heard.
The revision of the FRDC’s RD&E plan is well timed, given the changes to the Primary Industries Research and Development Act 1989. It is a chance to look at stakeholders’ priorities and set in place a solid plan to 2020 and beyond.
An integral part of this process will be linking the work that is also being done to develop a national marketing plan.
A timetable for consultation will be circulated to industry and will also be available from the FRDC website.
Following the announcement, the FRDC received letters of congratulation and support from all major sectors of the industry and many interested stakeholders.
Here are three examples.
“Exactly what our industry needs to develop our markets in the face of increasing global competition.“
– Nathan Maxwell-McGinn, International Trader – CM Foods Division, Craig Mostyn Group
“This truly is a significant milestone for Australian seafood in its journey to developing more significant marketing strategies and objectives in the future. Well done.”
– Marshall Betzel, Queensland Seafood marketers Association
"Good news. Looking forward in the new year to be able to prioritise and scope appropriate programs to grow the market and inform the Australian consumer particularly. Here’s to a great 2014!”
– Frances Bender, Huon Aquaculture
Peter Horvat, 02 6285 0400