The Victorian Coalition Government has detailed an additional $61.4 million four-year package to ensure the future success of one of Victoria’s biggest export earners – the food and fibre sector.
Agriculture and Food Security Minister Peter Walsh said the Agriculture and Food Industry Plan outlined in today’s 2012-13 Budget would help build the profitability and productivity of the dairy, red meat, grains and horticulture industries, as well as boost biosecurity measures across the farm sector.
“This plan is an investment in jobs, in regional Victoria and the continued long term successes of the food and fibre sector – one of the engine rooms of Victoria’s economy,” Mr Walsh said.
“The Coalition Government has secured a new food and fibre strategy for Victoria even under the huge budgetary pressures we face this year.
“This Budget sets out a clear plan to meet our challenges and position Victoria to take full advantage of current and future opportunities. It’s about driving economic activity, productivity and jobs, and it’s about rebuilding the state’s finances.
“We are taking a responsible and necessary approach to support the productivity and profitability of Victoria’s food and fibre sector, one of the strongest industries in the state.”
Mr Walsh said a total of $14.3 million of new money over four years would be invested to ensure Victoria’s dairy sector continued to innovate and prosper.
“Victoria is Australia’s dairy powerhouse, accounting for two thirds of national production and 86 per cent of dairy exports,” Mr Walsh said.
“This investment will focus on maintaining that success, by improving cow genetics and the efficiency of feeding systems – one of the biggest cost pressures facing dairy farmers.”
Mr Walsh said an extra $9 million over four years would target the beef and lamb sectors and strive to lift productivity growth in light of improved seasons.
“Beef and lamb producers are experiencing strong export demand. Now is the ideal time to make a strategic investment, boost output and lift productivity growth,” Mr Walsh said.
“This investment will focus on improved fertility, weaner survival, genetics and grazing systems, and build on investments already made by the government in last year’s budget.”
An additional $10.6 million over four years will focus on Victoria’s grain producers.
“In 2010 the grains sector provided a gross value of $2.5 billion to the Victorian economy, with exports worth more than $1.1 billion,” Mr Walsh said.
“The initiative will improve plant genetics, technologies and farm practices to increase the productivity, product resilience and flexibility of the grains industry.
“This government is committed to ensuring the future long term success of this vital industry.”
Mr Walsh said the fourth component of the food and industry revitalisation plan was to seize opportunities created by a growing demand for fresh horticultural products in Asia.
An investment of $8.1 million of new money over four years will focus on three horticultural areas that show exciting potential: pears, almonds and stonefruits (apricots, peaches and nectarines).
The investment will also support the Horticulture Industry Network to ensure growers have access to information on how to improve their performance.
“This strategy is based on playing to our strengths and competitive advantages, and focusing on high value markets in Australia and overseas,” Mr Walsh said.
Mr Walsh said an investment of an additional $19.5 million over four years would help to ensure that Victorian food and fibre producers were properly protected from the threat of weeds, pest animals and diseases.
“The ongoing management of biosecurity threats is crucial to Victoria’s prosperity and is an important insurance policy to protect our trade and access to markets,” Mr Walsh said.
“The Victorian Coalition Government is serious about combating the impacts of pest plants and animals on food and fibre producers and ensuring that Victoria continues to have access to premium markets across the world.”
Mr Walsh said the new financial year would also see food and fibre producers take advantage of the Coalition’s $5 million initiative to establish co-operatives to maximise the marketing potential of clean, fresh Victorian farm produce.
“The Government will co-invest with the Victorian cattle industry to improve efficiencies in ordering National Livestock Identification tags and will train additional private sector veterinarians in exotic animal disease detection and response,” Mr Walsh said.
“These new measures build on the investment in the Coalition Government’s first budget to support young people in agricultural careers and enhance farm biosecurity,” Mr Walsh said.