WHILE the past year has had its challenges, there has also been some good news for the WA agricultural sector.
For example, live cattle exports in 2013/14 increased by 80 per cent to $236 million and beef exports increased by 40pc to $112m.
These increases were derived partly from increased quantity but also due to a higher unit price, which has benefited producers.
Lamb and mutton exports have increased by 78pc and 37pc respectively for a combined value of $324m.
However one of the best news stories for industry came just last month with the announcement of the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement.
China is one of WA's most valuable export markets and this agreement will help ensure the State can further benefit from the rapid growth of China's middle and upper classes.
WA agrifood exports to China in 2013-14 were valued at $1.5 billion, so this agreement is extremely important for the WA agriculture sector as it may open up many new opportunities.
It will allow better access and reduce trade barriers for WA products.
For example, the moment the FTA enters into force, the 3pc tariff currently applied to Australian barley entering China will be eliminated.
It will also help create a more level playing field with reducing tariffs, enabling us to better compete with countries like New Zealand, which already has an FTA with China.
But importantly, Australia will gain an advantage over major agricultural competitors such as the US, Canada and the EU, countries that do not have an FTA with China.
To help producers capture some of the upside as a result of increased demand from our region, the Government is supporting industry through a range of new initiatives.
These include $15m over four years for the northern beef futures project to build industry capacity and stimulate diversification, $10m for the establishment of the Sheep Industry Business Innovation Centre in Katanning and $20m to be invested in biosecurity defences to help capture a share of growing international markets, including the use of technology in the early detection of pests and weeds.
Now that is great news and my wish for 2015 is that sentiment remains high, commodity prices stay high, the Australian dollar remains low, weather conditions are generally favourable and our key markets keep demanding the premium quality products from WA's agriculture sector.