News and Views

Tasmania’s brand valued but fragile

We all love Tasmania and, as it turns out, so does the rest of the world.

When it comes to our agricultural produce, Tasmania is recognised as having its own unique, quality brand, and in many ways it is the state’s greatest asset. It allows us to promote what we produce in a way that our mainland counterparts can only envy.

Our brand provides us with market access and makes a clear statement that Tasmanian-made or grown equals a high quality product produced in an ethical and sustainable way.  In today’s world, that is a reputation that money just cannot buy.

I have spoken before about the counterfeiting that goes on in some parts of the world, where inferior products or produce is rebadged and passed off as Tasmanian – cherries have been a point in case.

While the practice is not acceptable and steps are being taken to ensure that only Tasmanian products and produce carry the brand, it is nevertheless in itself a form of flattery. It underscores the value that is placed on the Tasmanian brand.

In short, we have an extremely valuable commodity that is recognised internationally and a brand that many attempt to imitate. As a State we need to be very proud of this achievement, but we also need to understand that it is a fragile asset that can be irreparably compromised, if not destroyed by reckless and thoughtless behaviour.

We have heard of the case of contaminated berries that was imported from China, but the reality is not all berries from China were contaminated. However, for many consumers the semantics were simple, and all berries from China were treated with the same disdain. Consumers and markets can be very unforgiving.

With that in mind, all Tasmanians need to understand that it would only take one poor decision by a Tasmanian producer or farmer to adversely impact on our brand. We need to be aware that the world’s consumers may have a somewhat different view to us about what they regard as unacceptable in terms of ethical, environmental or business standards. It is the market that ultimately makes these judgements, and the market that determines if the Tasmanian brand has currency.

The challenge for all of us, and by that I mean not only farmers but anyone who produces products for international or domestic consumption, is to ensure that all our business and farming decisions recognise the market and brand element that is so crucial for our future.

There is no room in today’s markets to be taking shortcuts or ignoring the fact that we have to accept that a ‘social licence’ is required to operate in the world we live.

This article first appeared in the Tasmanian Country Newspaper 15/01/16

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