Braving the karaoke bars of Japan was the first step in Lachie Hart’s career as a beef exporter. Sent by his father to learn the family business, the then 18 year old Lachie quickly developed important relationships with his customers. ‘I’d just finished school and he said this is going to be your industry, your market, your company, you need to go and meet some Japanese’, Lachie says.
Lachie is now Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Darling Downs-based Kirwee Lot Feeders, the company his parents founded in 1973. In that year, Lachie’s father, a director of a meat company, travelled to Japan to learn about international markets. He saw the huge potential and started exporting premium beef to Japan. Now, the family-owned company is selling its products in Japan and 17 other countries around the world.
Australia’s clean, green image for quality produce helps Lachie tap into the rapidly expanding Asian middle class market. ‘What we produce here is so strongly supported by brand Australia…It’s not just beef, it’s dairy. It’s all sorts of products that we produce in Australia. That clean and green image is a very strong factor that we promote’, he says.
If you just look at the megatrends that are occurring around the world, the increase in population particularly on our doorstep, in Southeast Asia, in North Asia...There is going to be an enormous demand for food…
‘It's a really exciting time to be part of the agricultural industry’, Lachie says. ‘If you just look at the megatrends that are occurring around the world, the increase in population particularly on our doorstep, in Southeast Asia, in North Asia. You've seen the increase in the net wealth of those economies as well. There is going to be an enormous demand for food and certainly a strong demand for protein as well’, he says.
He says that free trade agreements, including the Japan – Australia Economic Partnership Agreement, have created terrific opportunities for Australian beef exporters. They have ‘…enabled us to establish the markets, the relationships in those markets, but then more importantly to compete against other nations from around the world into that particular market’, Lachie says. In 2016 alone, Lachie’s company saw a 34 per cent increase in their volume of sales to the Japanese market.
Lachie describes how communities are being developed and re-developed because of the growth in the agricultural sector in Australia. ‘If you just drive through Toowoomba you just see this massive growth and expansion, and it's all because of the agricultural communities and the industries that it's supporting.'
After all these years, Lachie is thankful to his father for urging him to travel to Japan. ‘He was probably one of the best teachers when it came to educating me about how to do business with people across our shores…He said ‘don't make the same mistake I did. Go to Japan, learn the language, that way you'll get to understand them a lot better’, and that's what I did’, Lachie says.