Mission to boost exports

25 Nov, 2015 01:00 AM
Agriculture and Food Minister Ken Baston recently toured the Middle East to look at export opportunities.
Agriculture and Food Minister Ken Baston recently toured the Middle East to look at export opportunities.

AGRICULTURE and Food Minister Ken Baston says the Middle East, particularly Egypt, holds further opportunity for WA exports.

Following a Middle Eastern tour focused on agriculture and food trade opportunities this month, Mr Baston said there was a positive message in terms of livestock trade.

"There is a demand for safe food and securing supply," Mr Baston said.

"I met with a good number of ministers and I was very impressed.''

Mr Baston said countries were negotiating with the Federal Government on Export Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS) regulations, which have impeded imports because of national sovereignty concerns.

"It's a federal matter but I have relayed this back to our federal minister and they are working on that,'' Mr Baston said.

"The discussion was more positive in the trade of livestock.

"There are good opportunities to build the trade further."

Mr Baston said the Middle East was a diverse and valuable trading region for WA's agrifood industries.

The trade visit included Qatar, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia and Egypt and aimed to build relationships with key customers and raise WA's profile.

"Food security is an important issue for the Middle East, as they import more than 90 per cent of their total food requirements," Mr Baston said.

"This mission will complement government-led initiatives to support industry to develop high-value, high-growth trade opportunities for WA agrifood businesses, and provide the opportunity to learn more about the investors' perspective in terms of commitment of capital to WA agrifood businesses' development."

These four markets were collectively worth $2 billion to the WA agrifood industry over the past five years.

"The United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia are traditionally significant markets for WA grains, including barley, canola and wheat, and sheep meat," he said.

"Qatar presents significant opportunities in terms of strengthening investment ties. Egypt is a potentially valuable market for WA's grains and meat."

Mr Baston said given the change of government in Egypt, no other minister had yet visit the new administration.

"It was fairly pertinent to go there and meet the new government," he said.

"Most of the ministers I met with had only been in office for three months.

"It gave me a good advantage to be in there early and discuss some of the issues.

"They made it known they were very interested in the supply chain from Australia to Egypt."

WA agrifood exports to Egypt were valued at $42m in 2014-15 which is led by wheat at $19m, cattle at $12m, sheep at $3m and mutton at $2m.

Mr Baston said last year WA doubled its exports to Egypt.

"Exports are at $80.5m, mainly due to live animal exports," he said.

"It is a country with a lot of people and enthusiastic ministers.

"When you look at the population, Qatar's is about 2.2m, but I think Egypt has the most opportunity.

"They are keen to get involved in supply chains and they understand it.

"It's about building up those relationships."

In Dubai, the delegation attended the Gulfood Manufacturing exhibition, the region's biggest food and beverage processing industry event, and the Middle East Seafood Exhibition.

Mr Baston said the State Government was committed to supporting industry in harnessing export growth opportunities.

"The Department of Agriculture and Food (DAFWA) supports a number of internationally-based agricultural officers in WA trade and investment offices, including Dubai," he said.

The delegation included Mr Baston, DAFWA's Trevor Whittington and Bruce Mullan, Brianna Peake, the CBH Group, and WA Trade Office Commissioner, Middle East and Africa, Pankaj Savara.

Ms Peake, CBH's government and industry relations manager, said the region was a key market for Australian wheat, Feed barley, canola and oats with between 25-20 per cent of Australia's exportable wheat surplus heading to it every year.

"CBH was keen to support the minister's visit to one of WA's critical grain export markets," she said.

"Saudi is the largest importer of Feed barley in the world and this year it's likely to re-emerge as a major market for Australian barley.

"We were able to visit some major customers of WA grain in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Egypt. It is crucial as representatives of WA grain growers, that we understand the market requirements for quality and price and what the perception of Australian grain is.

"The Asian region is a natural market for Australian grain with much of the focus being placed on this region, however the Middle East-North African region is a vital export destination and provides a diversity of markets options for Australian grain and is a key region of focus for CBH."

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Katrina Love
25/11/2015 10:47:12 AM, on Farm Weekly

Mr Baston says the Middle East was a diverse & valuable trading region... it also has an appalling record of horrendous animal welfare involving Australian animals exported live; all countries visited on his tour (Qatar, UAE, Saudi & Egypt) have been the topic of investigations into extreme cruelty & abuse spanning decades & the abuse so bad in Egypt that the live cattle trade has been stopped twice & the import of live sheep banned - any animals sent to the countries mentioned will also have their throats cut whilst fully conscious. They all also import chilled Aussie Beef and/or sheep meat.


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