Doorstop in Brisbane, QLD


SUBJECTS: Fresh and Secure Trade Alliance; trade opportunities; Australian fruit and vegetables

MURRAY WATT, MINISTER FOR AGRICULTURE, FISHERIES AND FORESTRY: Well thanks very much for coming along today. And where better to launch Australia’s biggest, most ambitious horticulture trade initiative than the Ekka? I’ve been coming to the Ekka since I was a kid as a Brisbane resident, and now I’m doing the same thing with my own kids. And there are so many Queensland families who are here today celebrating our Royal Agricultural Show and putting on show the incredible produce that Queensland growers provide to our state, our country and the world each and every year.

Today we have a very special announcement to make at the Ekka and that is, as I say, the biggest, most ambitious trade initiative that Australia has ever seen for our horticulture industry. The horticulture industry is a vital player in our national economy. It’s the fastest growing exporter amongst all of our agricultural industries and it provides wealth and jobs everywhere from the Lockyer Valley to places like Bundaberg and Bowen in Queensland, right across the country, and all of our produce is becoming better known right around the world.

Today’s initiative – a $130 million initiative that is jointly funded by the Federal Government, State and Territory Governments and industry through the rural research development corporation Hort Innovation – which take Australian horticulture to the next level. We know as Australians that Australian horticulture is the best, the tastiest, the cleanest and the greenest horticulture right around the world. But the reality is that when negotiating trade agreements we need to be able to prove that claim, and that’s what this initiative is all about.

It's called the Fresh and Secure Trade Alliance – FASTA – and what it will do is bring together the biosecurity data that is held right around the country by Federal Governments, State and Territory Governments and industry, to bring it together under one banner so that our trade negotiators can then use that data when they’re out there negotiating trade agreements with the rest of the world.

I was recently in India with a number of people who are here today seeing for myself the incredible opportunities that are ahead in things like avocados and all sorts of other Australian produce. But being able to prove our biosecurity standards is a really critical part of that, and that’s what this initiative will do. It will also fund more research into some of the pests and diseases that we know can affect horticulture if they’re not treated properly – things like fruit fly and other pests and diseases. So this is a fantastic initiative across all levels of government. It is led by the Queensland Government right here in Brisbane and will take our horticulture sector to the next level.

I might hand over to Mark Furner, the Queensland Agriculture Minister, who, as I say, is leading this initiative. And then we’ll hear from Hort Innovation and also one of the local growers. Thank you.

MARK FURNER, QUEENSLAND MINISTER FOR AGRICULTURAL INDUSTRY DEVELOPMENT: Thanks Murray. On the 144th day of the Brisbane Ekka I can’t think of a more important time to make this announcement on FASTA. It will secure more opportunities for growth in terms of horticulture. I thank the Commonwealth and the other states and in particular industry for their collaboration to make this possible.

Here in Queensland, horticulture is the second largest primary industry at $2.8 billion, employing more than 25,000 people in the state alone. So it makes perfect sense. We know the reputation globally that we do supply the best, the cleanest, the greenest produce to the world. So it’s extremely important for us to work in collaboration to make this possible.

When you see the growth in places like Vietnam alone – 266 per cent growth in [indistinct] horticulture over there – I was only there last year and they are on the cusp of wanting more and more of our produce from Australia. So it makes perfect sense to do this collaboration with the industry, with the Commonwealth and all the other States and Territories to make this happen. We will deliver. It’s a great day to be here at the Ekka, thank you.

BRETT FIFIELD, CEO HORT INNOVATION: It doesn’t matter whether you’re a citrus grower in Mildura, a berry grower in Tasmania or an avocado grower in Bundaberg; what we’re doing today is investing more than $100 million over the next eight years to help you get more access to more markets in a very fast way. This is a collaboration that has not been seen before in Australian horticulture. It’s one that shows our commitment to innovation, innovation across the States and Territories, and innovation that is going to be informed by growers and industry and where their priorities are so we can convert the trade outcomes and continue the growth of the sector but, more importantly, continue our growers to be profitable, sustainable and the most innovative in the world.

GAVIN SCURR, SUNSHINE COAST GROWER: This project is so important for us, this industry. Our growth in exports allows us to keep growing our industry. The horticultural industry is the fastest growing industry in our sector. And while we’ve got some tough times at the moment, if we can maximise the opportunities in the export markets [indistinct].

This project brings together leader research right across Australia to enable market access. Market access for our fresh produce is quite difficult. The free trade agreement certainly helps the economic side, however, we have trade barriers around pests, particularly insects have been quite difficult. It takes a lot of commitment from government and industry to ensure that protocols are put in place to make sure that the local pests and diseases stay here in Australia. That’s what this project will do, though – it will deliver outcomes that not only give us new market access but make existing markets better for us.

So, on behalf of the industry, I’d actually like to thank the ministers, both Federal and State, for their commitment, to Brett and his team at Hort Innovation. Thank you for making this initiative possible for us and we look forward to the outcomes.