Friday, December 31, 2010

A Future for our Agri-Food Industry

Published 27th November 2010

Imaging in 10 years time where our agri-food industry will be? With our rich soils, plenty of sun and an abundance of rainfall, will it be the nation’s food bowl? Will we have a food manufacturing industry to support the diverse range of food products available? Will our regional food brand Taste Paradise be as renowned as Food Barossa? …and will our region be internationally recognised as a food tourism destination similar to Provence, Tuscany or San Sebastian? It is said that nothing significant happens that isn’t planned!

Last week I attended an Agri-food tourism field day and Food Industry forum held in the Cassowary and Tablelands areas. These four well attended workshops proved that farmers are interested in the future of the industry.

The field day looked at opportunities to diversify their farming product in a number of ways that included linkages into tourism. Whether it’s selling food at local farmers markets, processing their product, finding a supply chain to local retail & food services, or opening their property for visitation, these farmers were positively encouraged to take the next step; a series of workshops of mentoring their way through a maze of related business development skills.

The forums were about bringing the industry together; development of a local food supply chain that brings regional produce into the Cairns area, to retailers and restaurants, and developing an accreditation framework that links to the new regional food brand; Taste Paradise. The sessions lead by Rose Wright from the Southern Cross University provided a great discussion. This lady knows her stuff when working along the supply chain from farmers to the consumer but she also works on a political level of compliance support and regulatory reform to address the impediments placed on agribusiness entrepreneurs. At the end of the forum it was exciting to see a very positive response from farmers, and it goes without saying the more who embrace this framework, the better chance of success.

Rose is finalising a Regional Food Strategy 2010-2020 in consultation with industry and will facilitate the elements in the region over the next six months.

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