IDENTIFYING new markets and export opportunities is key to the future viability of horticulture in the north and a new study will look to do just that.
The Cooperative Research Centre for Developing Northern Australia (CRCNA) is looking to collaborate with producers in the Mackay, Isaac and Whitsunday regions to pinpoint new export makets for both existing and new high value agricultural products.
The $215,000 Mackay-Isaac-Whitsunday agribusiness Export Supply Chain Mapping Study will examine how local and international supply chains will need to be developed, enhanced or supported to overcome market access barriers and deliver agri-food export produce and agri-food waste products to market.
The study will also identify and map the export freight task for MIW agri-food products, outline potential new agribusiness opportunities and provide a platform for further advocacy on future infrastructure investment needs for the region.
Stakeholders include the Greater Whitsunday Alliance (GW3), North Queensland Bulk Ports (NQBP), Regional Development Australia Mackay Isaac Whitsunday (RDAMIW) and Bowen Gumlu Growers Association.
Bowen-Gumlu Growers' Association president Carl Walker said such studies were necessary to expand the industry.
"There are great opportunities and in order for our industry to grow and expand we must have new markets," Mr Walker said.
"We are at saturation point. People forget that we are just a nation of 25-26 million people yet we grow enough food to feed 40-60 million.
"In order to expand and be more profitable and sustainable we need to chase new market opportunities and work on that to maximise the benefits back to growers, but also back to the regions.
"That's what it's all about, it is not just us as growers being sustainable, it is our towns and regions that rely on us, because if we're not profitable and sustainable, neither are the towns and regions."
Mr Walker said while value could be added in the short term looking at packaged food, more work needed to be done sending fresh produce to markets overseas.
"There are markets out there we can capitalise off but we have to pass their stringent rules and regulations. There is still a bit of work to be done on our part."
CRCNA chair Sheriden Morris said the project would highlight how agricultural and export market development can be a catalyst for generating future growth in the region.
"Establishment of a long-term regional investment strategy and a multi-industry agreement is critical to ensuring the MIW producers have robust supply chain systems which enable them to access significant growth opportunities and maximise production to meet future international demand," Ms Morris said.
GW3 CEO Garry Scanlan said the study would support and inform the delivery of the Growing Greater Whitsunday Agri-food Strategy recommendations to develop regional road maps and action plans and partner with industry stakeholders to develop and promote Regional Agri-food Export Readiness Programs.
"This study is the first of its kind for the region and when completed will contain relevant, consolidated data and detailed analysis which will identify opportunities for our region."
Ms Morris said the MIW research project will also inform a broader northern Australian approach to improving agricultural supply chains.
"The end result will be an integrated plan to improve and enhance agricultural supply chains across the north, to the benefit of all producers and agribusinesses."
ACIL Allen Consulting have been appointed to deliver the study with the final report due by the end of year.