The Agriculture Ministers’ Forum (AGMIN) has unanimously endorsed the creation of a pilot program aimed at improving market access for temperate fruit exports, such as apples, pears, stone fruits, grapes and cherries, to China and Thailand.
The pilot program, which was also endorsed by Federal Minister for Agriculture, Barnaby Joyce, and other state territory Agriculture Ministers, is in addition to the $5.2 million provided in the recent 2015-16 Victorian Budget to establish a specialised trade unit to support trade negotiations and address trade barriers.
It comes after Minister for Agriculture Jaala Pulford urged the Federal Government to ramp up the support for Victoria’s horticulture industry to “improve access to new markets and overcome barriers to trade”.
“I’m pleased to see the Federal Government and other state and territories acknowledge Victoria’s expertise in this industry by endorsing the Andrews Labor Government to lead the new temperate fruit export pilot program,” Ms Pulford said in a press release.
Victoria’s horticulture industry – worth approximately $2.4 billion – employs more than 9,000 people throughout the state and accounts for more than half of Australia’s horticulture exports, worth $894 million.
“With Victoria’s horticulture industry accounting for more than half of Australia’s horticulture exports, it is critical that we continue to advocate for the interests of our thriving industry at a national level,” the Minister said.
AGMIN Forum Ministers also backed a strategy to increase agricultural export opportunities, with a focus on driving positive outcomes and promoting Australia as a professional, organised and reliable trading partner.
Speaking at the forum, Ms Pulford also expressed Victoria’s concerns about the eligibility criteria of the Federal Government’s drought concessional loans.
As a result, Forum Ministers agreed that further consideration would be given to proposals from states and territories in regards to eligibility criteria to ensure affected farmers have access to the financial support they need.
“We will also continue to lobby the Federal Government on behalf of Victorian farmers to resolve issues around drought loan eligibility – we don’t want to see farmers who need this help miss out,” Ms Pulford added.
According to her, the Ministers also received an update on the National Livestock Identification System (NLIS) for sheep and goats, and noted the need for a consistent approach to farm trespass to maintain the integrity of the biosecurity system.