A MOVEMENT to build a new export supply chain of high-end, value-added products out of the Riverina is gaining pace.
The Agribusiness Regional Development Association is heading the shift to take Australia from a commodity-based exporter to a supplier of end-use products targeting the burgeoning Asian middle classes.
It’s a fledgling solution to a problem prominent meat and grain exporter, Roger Fletcher has already warned Australia about.
ARDA secretary Daryl Young said disruptive technology would form the backbone of the supply chain, seeking to take advantage of Australia’s “clean green” reputation for growing high quality food.
Delivering that produce directly to consumers is key, he said.
“Australian producers have for too long been price takers and middle men have controlled the supply process, not by virtue of their position, but rather as a result of circumstances and tradition.”
It is time, Mr Young said, that producers wrested control of supply from the middlemen.
He said governments need to get on board to help create a “modern day infrastructure project”, allowing primary producers to capture a greater share of the value chain.
“If primary producers can capture 10 to 15 per cent or more from the value chain, jobs and opportunity will be bolstered in regional Australia,” he said.
The bold plan is being refined in the Riverina, but Mr Young hopes to expand it.
“We have modelled the opportunity and estimate 1500 to 2000 new jobs could be created in regions where this model is introduced,” Mr Young said.
He said it had the potential to decentralise industry to regional areas.
“The NSW trade and investment program is excellent for larger businesses, but doesn’t cater for small or medium-sized businesses or start-ups.”
He said regional and small businesses produced 80 to 85 per cent of the Australia’s food product but only 30 per cent of those SMEs were exported in their own right.
“More than 60pc of Australian food prduction is exported, it’s time Australian producers shifted from bulk commodity exports, where processing occurs offshore, to creating tailor-made, high-end products in the regions and exported directly to the end user.”
He said there were plenty of doubters that didn’t think it possible.
It’s a stumbling block Mr Young is not fazed by: “How do you eat an elephant ? One bite at a time.
“Funding is key and ARDA has produced a financial model with the capacity to repay within three years capital requirements, by charging producers a subscription fee.
“The subscription fee would cover costs and repayments and be no more than $1200 a year,” he said.