HORTICULTURE is in the box seat to be the next big export commodity boom.
Thanks to a host of premium “gold standard” produce, Australia is ideally placed to make the most of the growing wealth of Asia, Special Envoy for Trade and former trade minister Andrew Robb said last week.
“All of a sudden we’ve got literally billions of people on our doorstep, and more importantly, billions of people who increasingly have got the capacity to pay a premium price for the things that we produce, particularly in agriculture.”
Mr Robb said Australia’s horticulture industry was as big as its beef industry, but unlike beef, it mostly serviced the domestic market.
But innovation was helping to capture export interest.
“We’re now seeing hundreds of hectares of tomatoes being produced under solar glasshouses in remote areas of South Australia,” Mr Robb said.
Mr Robb said the high prices Asian countries were willing to pay would help provide a return on the high cost of Australian production.
“We are a high-cost country, we have a very high standard of living and that means high costs,” Mr Robb said.
Voice of Horticulture director Pat McNamara said vegetables, bananas, apples, pears, citrus and almonds were helping to shift Australia’s focus from the “mining to the dining boom”.
“There’s a real opportunity for a whole range of horticulture commodities to expand and we’re well placed to take advantage of these trade opportunities,” he said.
“They’re worth 40 per cent of the Australian wool clip and the industry expects to see a 50 per cent increase in production over the next five to 10 years.”
Peak body AusVeg national manager of export development Michael Coote said Australian vegetable exports had increased to more than $270 million in 2014-15, up from $256 million in 2013-14, with markets in Asia and the Middle East contributing to growth.
“Australia’s high quality vegetables are increasingly sought after, with growing middle class populations in Asia and projected growth in the food sector in the United Arab Emirates stimulating increased demand for a greater variety of Australian vegetables,” Mr Coote said.