AgMemo Northern Agricultural Region

State Horticulture Forum explores opportunities for growth

New Western Australian Agriculture and Food Minister, Alannah MacTiernan (centre), with Maureen Dobra, Loose Leaf Lettuce Company (left) and Sue Middleton, Moora Citrus, sample some fine local mangoes at the inaugural State Horticulture Update.
New Western Australian Agriculture and Food Minister, Alannah MacTiernan (centre), with Maureen Dobra, Loose Leaf Lettuce Company (left) and Sue Middleton, Moora Citrus, sample some fine local mangoes at the inaugural State Horticulture Update.

Western Australia’s inaugural State Horticulture Update attracted a strong crowd, keen to hear about the latest issues, case studies and expertise in this growing industry.

More than 120 people attended the Update in Perth in early April, drawing supply chain participants from throughout the State.

The Department of Agriculture and Food, Western Australia (DAFWA) hosted the event, to explore strategies and information to assist WA horticulture businesses to become internationally competitive.

The gathering was privileged to hear from new Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan, who acknowledged the value in investing in the industry to capitalise on new market opportunities and generating regional jobs.

A highlight of the day was a presentation on the Coriolis consultancy’s Pathways to competitiveness report by director Tim Morris.

The report was commissioned by DAFWA, as part of its Agricultural Sciences project, funded by Royalties for Regions to identify opportunities, constraints and drivers for growth and investment that characterise successful, internationally competitive agribusinesses.

The analysis provided key insights for industries to achieve more viable international pathways.

There are some interesting lessons to be learnt from peer regions that have transformed relevant industry sectors over a relatively short period.

Agrifood growth in Peru, the dairy industry in New Mexico and pork industry growth in Chile all provide strong examples of transformation and global competitiveness.

Members of the State’s potato and citrus industries, which have been assessed and benchmarked against peer regions that are achieving international success, will find this report interesting.

DAFWA is committed to assisting the horticulture industry to double its value by 2025.

Our role is to grow and protect WA’s agrifood sector, working in close partnership with the agrifood sector to achieve this.

As an economic development agency, underpinned by science, innovation and commercial awareness, DAFWA is well placed to deliver on government’s priority to grow the sector’s contribution to the State economy and protect its enviable biosecurity reputation and competitive advantage.

DAFWA has been supporting the development of irrigation developments in the State’s north by identifying suitable available water and land, to ground truth resources for potential investors.

Royalties for Regions projects have identified more than 60,000 hectares of suitable land for irrigation in the La Grange are in the West Kimberley, while more than 10,000ha of land at Cockatoo Sands in the East Kimberley are capable of delivering new industries.

More than 400 hectares of new land near Carnarvon has been confirmed for expansion as part of the Gascoyne Food Bowl initiative, while the department has also identified growth zones at Myalup, where there is potential for significant expansion in irrigated agriculture.

The department is also working on the Department of Water’s Water for Food Royalties for Regions projects in the West Midlands, Southern Forest, Preston and Collie-Wellington areas to explore potential for increasing irrigation development.

Several department officers also updated the forum on a major emergency response to the discovery of the exotic pest tomato potato psyllid, which is a serious pest to vegetable production, and its impact on market access.

Another feature of the Update was an overview of the development of a marketing campaign for the Bravo™ apple and insights by local business leaders on business growth, export approach and the challenges of taking businesses to the next stage.

WA’s horticulture industry has a production value of $702 million (2014-15), with exports worth $158 million.

In the past 12 months fruit exports have increased by 23%, while vegetable exports have increased by 17%.

The industry’s value added contribution to the economy is significant, amounting to about $1.6 billion.

While horticulture represents less than 10% of the gross value of agricultural production, it accounts for more than 25% of employment at a farm level.

In terms of value adding the value of horticulture increases on average 3.3 times from farm to consumer, with wine the biggest contributor.

The State Horticulture Update also featured success stories from Sue Middleton from Moora Citrus, Maureen Dobra from the Loose Leaf Lettuce company, while the Western Citrus Alliance the PomeWest provided insights in the current market constraints and opportunities.

For more information about the Department of Agriculture and Food, Western Australia’s work in irrigated agriculture visit the Horticulture webpage on the DAFWA website.

For the State Horticulture Update program, and link to the pathways to competitiveness report visit the State Horticulture Update webpage.