The Northern Rivers is one of Australia’s premier fine foods hubs, with a reputation for producing high quality gourmet and organic food. While our rich soils provide the medium for producing the best quality food, it is the entrepreneurial nature of the Northern Rivers that has seen local farmers create international brands. Our farmers are innovative, bringing value add to great produce with great products.
The Australian Government’s Regional Jobs and Investment Packages (RJIP) sets out six priority investment sectors for the Northern Rivers. Food Manufacturing and Agribusiness is one of these sectors. Demand for quality Australian food products in the export market, particularly in Asia, provides an opportunity for investment in our food manufacturing sector, providing both employment and economic growth to the region.
Currently food manufacturing is the largest and most productive sector of our local manufacturing industries, with a $1.8 billion output. A local spend of $760 million means the industry is keeping the money here in the local economy. It also has the highest level of regional exports at over $1 billion.
The growing Asian market for the ‘clean green’ Australian brand, which the Northern Rivers has a reputation for, creates regional growth and employment opportunities that can only be realised through expanding our food manufacturing sector.
The market demands from Asian premium food importers, particularly in China are for supermarket shelf ready food. For example premium steaks are packaged here in Australia as individual portions that go out of the box onto the shelf. This move from being a bulk commodity supplier to a value added supplier will result in more industry jobs and investment in the region.
A recent article featured in the Sydney Morning Herald highlighted the growing market for fresh Australian produce with exports of Australian beef, dairy and fruit and vegetables to China exceeding $1.7 billion last year.
The Australian Trade and Investment Commission notes that the Chinese consumer market for food and beverage (F&B) is one of the fastest growing F&B markets in the world. Increases in living standards has increased discernment from Chinese consumers who are seeking a higher value product with added convenience.
The qualities demanded by the Asian market are qualities that resonate with Northern Rivers food producers. Our bourgeoning food industry’s capacity to tap into this market, however, is dependent on the food manufacturing and freight and supply chain industries capacity to grow to meet the demand for the Northern Rivers brand.
The continued development of Northern Rivers agriculture and food industries as value-add industries is seeing more local producers expanding into international markets. With this comes the need for increased manufacturing and freight and supply chain capacity. Without access to local manufacturing facilities, food producers will be forced to look outside of the region to meet their needs, taking valuable local jobs with them.
The Australian Government’s willingness to invest in the infrastructure to meet the growing needs of local food manufacturing industries provides an opportunity to expand the local industry and reap the employment and economic benefits this provides. As a region, we need to embrace the opportunity to develop the infrastructure that will enable bigger, more advanced manufacturing capacity.
Food and Beverage to China – Australian Trade and Investment Commission
Regional Jobs and Investment Package – Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development
‘Amazon of China’ Alibaba already has supermarkets. Now it wants our food – Article in SMH