Bowen growers eye ‘huge potential’ in Japanese market
TAPPING into the "huge potential" of the Japanese market could be the key to securing a sustainable future for Bowen farmers.
Bowen Gumlu Growers Association vice president Ben Martin, from Marto's Mangoes, spoke highly of the opportunity to expand into Japan after the association secured $70,143 to help growers make the most of exporting to the nation.
Mr Martin said he had previously been on a trade mission to Japan and the resounding message he received was that a good, consistent supply of Australian produce was wanted.
With Japan boasting a population of 126.5 million, compared to Australia's 25 million, it presented a significant opportunity.
"If you could only tap into a small Japanese market the potential for growth is enormous," Mr Martin said.
"There are some growers that send to Japan currently but realistically there's not too many.
"In Australia we've got quite a captive audience here in regards to demand and really to grow demand you're cannibalising another area.
"There's a huge market with some of these markets that are virtually untouched.
"With some of these commodities it'll help to produce a sustainable future for our farmers."
Mr Martin said the funding would be used to help educate growers about export markets and possible constraints, but how that would be rolled out was yet to be set in concrete as COVID-19 had thrown a spanner in the works.
"It's about educating growers on what has to happen, looking at the supply chain and understanding the supply chain," he said.
"There are different pests and diseases, different treatment protocols to get food into Japan and different infection regimes on different pests."
Mr Martin said mangoes were of great interest in Japan, but there was also "huge potential" for other commodities being grown in Bowen - both whole and processed products.
The flow-on effect of expanding export opportunities would not just benefit growers, but also the wider community, he said.
"I'd like to thank the Federal Government for the opportunity that it's given our local growers especially at times like this when a lot of people are hurting, if we can help build resilience into our industry through these programs it's going to be better for everyone … the more money that'll flow into the community," he said
Agriculture Minister David Littleproud and Dawson MP George Christensen visited Bowen this week to talk to growers about the grant and export opportunities.
The Bowen Gumlu Growers Association is one of 12 industry groups to share in almost $1.4 million funding through the Agricultural Trade and Market Access Cooperation program.
Mr Littleproud said the $70,143 investment would support professional educational workshops and a delegation tour to Japan to meet government and industry representatives.
"This part of magnificent North Queensland is a horticultural powerhouse and the largest winter growing region in Australia, producing most of our tomatoes and capsicums, and contributing more than $460 million to the economy each year," Mr Littleproud said.
"Bowen Gumlu Growers Association's members produce the safest and freshest fruit, vegetables and nuts you would find anywhere in the world, so we are telling the world about it."
Mr Christensen said there was the potential to create a new market for premium horticultural product in Japan.
"Only about 10 per cent of the Bowen and Gumlu produce is being exported, primarily to New Zealand, but the association has identified that there is particular interest in export to other countries such as Japan due to the timing of their supply," Mr Christensen said.
"This funding is great news for the region, with horticulture a significant employer and major economic driver of many local communities.
"With about 70 per cent of the nation's agricultural production exported, or almost $49 billion in 2018-19, growers like those in Bowen and Gumlu will lead Australia's post COVID recovery."
Burdekin MP Dale Last welcomed the potential increase in exports for Bowen produce and hoped the Agricultural Trade and Market Access Cooperation program would also help create jobs in the area.
"This program has the potential to add so many opportunities for growers and it could play a big part in revolutionising horticulture in and around Bowen," Mr Last said.
"Whenever you open up new markets, you identify opportunities with existing produce and, potentially, new products and those opportunities can lead to new jobs and even new industries.
"Just imagine the economic impact for Bowen if we could double or even triple exports. It could be a much-needed boost for Bowen."
For more details about the ATMAC program click here.