South-west's big role in Asia food export plan

A NEW government-driven plan to put more Victorian food and beverages on Asian tables forecasts bright potential for expanding south-west farm incomes.

It shows a positive outlook for dairy exports and says strong opportunities will emerge through attracting more farm investment, overcoming tariff barriers and market access, improvements to farm management, uptake of new technology and boosting demand for value-added products.

Today’s release of the ‘Food to Asia’ action plan follows several fact-finding workshops in the past two years spearheaded by Warrnambool City councillor Jacinta Ermacora to explore the potential of the south-west becoming an Asian food bowl.

The new plan predicts sustained growth in demand from Asia and improved conditions for milk production will translate into higher farmgate prices, increased production and profitability and greater investment in the dairy sector.

“Increasingly processors are making large investments in the facilities and technology needed to produce transformed dairy products to draw greater value from raw milk and capture higher margins in grown export markets,” the plan says.

However, a shortage of  large-scale investment capital is listed as a  major challenge across all sectors.

“Our food sector will need to adopt new approaches to attracting investors and be open to exploring emerging sources of capital to seize the opportunities,” the plan says.

Premier and South West Coast MP Denis Napthine, who will launch the plan at International Food and Beverage Trade Week in Melbourne this morning, said his government had committed $35.4 million to drive Victoria’s long-term growth, building on an earlier $61.4 million program to boost food and fibre production.

“This is about entrenching Victoria’s position as Australia’s premier food and agriculture state,” Dr Napthine said. 

“By 2030, the number of consumers in Asia with discretionary spending will increase sixfold to around 3.5 billion people as demand for food increases exponentially.”

The plan shows Victoria accounts for 86 per cent of Australia’s dairy exports: 23 per cent into Japan, nine per cent into China and nine per cent into Singapore.

Victoria’s meat exports are 22 per cent of the national picture.

 Key targets   listed in the plan include: better market access,  improving workforce skills, more efficient freight transport, better research and development, streamlined red tape and increased investment.

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