With airfreight exports on the up, the state government is investigating quicker alternatives of getting produce to market.
It has undertaken a study, which showed there was strong potential to increase agricultural exports from regional NSW. The study looked at key international markets for export, high-value perishable export products, regional production, airport locations, and today's supply chain.
Beef accounted for $65 million of total airfreight exports from NSW, with China the largest market by value.
Airfreight exports of aquaculture are worth $16.7 million, with Japan the largest market. It is followed by $13.9m of summer fruit (Hong Kong largest market), $13.8m of lamb (South Korea largest market), $11m of dairy (China) and $9m of pork (Singapore).
China is the nation's largest key airfreight export market with $3.3 billion worth of export flow from Sydney Airport in 2018, followed by Singapore with $1b. The study, conducted by KPMG in May last year, assessed 60 potential regional airport locations, key international markets, high-value perishable export commodities and production regions as well as supply chain including existing infrastructure and operational requirements.
Consultants found investment in improving regional air freight supply chains may be feasible, and further investigation was needed.
KPMG said the study's next stage should focus on in-depth analysis of market demand and the supply chain, industry engagement and an economic, commercial and financial evaluation of the opportunity to ensure investment is done right.
That work should be completed in mid-2020.
NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro every step of the supply chain would be considered.
"When we started investigating the feasibility of exporting produce directly from regional NSW, we imagined that would mean packing perishables on planes from a limited number of regional airports," Mr Barilaro said. "This study has broadened our thinking."
NSW Farmers' president James Jackson said it was important to put competitive pressure on the supermarkets so farmers had a range of markets for their produce.
Mr Jackson said part of the Future Foods Systems Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) role was to find solutions to shorten the airfreight supply chain. The CRC was initiated by groups like NSW Farmers to look at ways to optimise the productivity of regional and peri-urban food systems, take new products from prototype to market and implementing rapid, provenance-protected supply chains from farm to consumer.
"There is a lot of work going into this," Mr Jackson said.