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Australia part of the Asian 'dining boom'

Perhaps it's the thought of cheap foreign goods, affordable holidays abroad or just a sense of national pride, but there is a correlation between a rising dollar and stronger confidence among Australians.

Consumer confidence hit its highest level in almost two years last week as the currency surpassed 80 US cents.

But business, especially exporters, and the Reserve Bank hate it.

Our foreign customers don't like it either.

Just ask Weng Hai Hui, the deputy director of China's Yong Hui Superstores.

Yong Hui stores are at the forefront of the Asia 'dining boom' as a growing middle class seek a greater variety of goods and acquire a western taste.

A tour around one of its stores in Fuzhou, the capital of the Chinese province of Fujian, show that the free-trade agreement with China has made its mark with Australian beef, wine, seafood and dairy on its shelves.

They sit alongside Chinese produce, including water tanks of live fish and frogs for those who want their food extra fresh.

There was a sense of pride when a group of Australian journalists on the Australian-China Relations Institute-UTS sponsored trip of the province found a stack of 'Simply White - 100% Australian dairy milk' cartons.

However, there was a double-take when next to it were larger boxes of 'Milk Deluxe' from New Zealand farms with an attractive silhouette of the country on the front.

Perhaps that's what happens when you secure a free-trade agreement, as New Zealand did in 2008, seven years before Australia.

But both Australia and NZ enjoy Chinese demand for their fresh cherries, as does the United States in our winter months.

However, Mr Weng points out that there are downsides to the cherry trade when there are too many weather delays and when there is an appreciation in the Australian dollar.

Not that such matters stand in the way of Yong Hui's massive expansion, with sales of 56 billion Chinese renminbi in 2016 ($A10.5 billion) up from five billion RMB in 2007.

Yong Hui has 496 stores across two-thirds of China and has an impressive target of 600 shops by 2018 and 1,000 by 2020 when it predicts sales of 100 billion RMB.

With a third of China still to conquer, Mr Weng says Yong Hui Super Stores has no plans to expand into overseas markets just yet.

But Mr Weng has one request to Australian businesses.

"Visit China more often".

There are obviously a lot more shelves to fill in the years ahead.

Austrlaian Associated PressBack to Breaking News

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