INVESTMENT in WA's top end will see northern beef producers diversify and expand into new markets.
Agriculture and Food Minister Ken Baston has announced that the State Government will invest $15 million to ensure beef producers in the north of WA can take advantage of promising markets in Asia and the Middle East.
The program, Northern Beef Futures, is forecast to create an extra $127m of value over the life of the project investment, with follow-on benefits to the wider community of about $500m.
Making the announcement at the Fitzroy Crossing bull sale last week, Mr Baston said the Northern Beef Futures, funded by Royalties for Regions, would work throughout the entire beef supply chain to support the cattle industry to build capacity and enhance trade relations to capture emerging market opportunities, particularly in Asia.
The program will also assist with on-station assistance to provide pastoralists with new strategies to meet building demand for our cattle and beef and provision for priority infrastructure needed to support growth in the northern beef sector.
"A key strategy will be to encourage market expansion and diversification, to strengthen the beef supply chain so it can withstand risks such as market interruptions," Mr Baston said.
"Northern Beef Futures will invest from the 'ground up' in the development of the supply chain to assist the industry to meet the specifications and requirements of potential customers in key Chinese and South East Asian markets.
"This will include improving cattle breeding techniques and genetics, and changes to herd management practices.
"This is an exciting time for agriculture and food in WA and this investment from the State Government will support the cattle industry to capitalise on new market opportunities and grow."
The program has the potential to deliver production increases between 40-50 per cent in the Kimberley and Pilbara region.
The project, part of the Government's Seizing the Opportunity initiative, will also review the infrastructure required in the north to support the beef industry in its endeavours, as well as stimulate changes in cattle management practices, innovation and capacity development.
The project has already secured support from the WA Beef Council and the northern cattle industry and is expected to leverage additional funds as it proceeds.
Department of Agriculture and Food (DAFWA) State beef leader Brad McCormick, who will manage the project, said DAFWA will work closely with other government and industry bodies on a regional, State and national basis.
"The next step will be to convene the project reference group comprising representatives from the emerging Kimberley Cattleman's Association, the WA Beef Council, indigenous groups, Kimberley and Pilbara Development Commissions, Meat and Livestock Australia, and the Northern Australian Beef Research Council," Mr McCormick said.
Pastoralists have welcomed the northern focus, according to Pastoralists and Graziers Association's Kimberley Division and Kimberley Cattleman's Association chairman and Northern Beef Futures steering committee member Peter Camp, who runs Kalyeeda station.
Mr Camp said he was pleased the focus was put on the north.
"The more markets we have, the healthier the industry will be," Mr Camp said.
"It will become more demand driven and hopeful the prices won't vary as much as they have done in the past.
"Industry is very appreciative of that money and hopefully it will increase productivity of the industry.
"The industry will be working very closely with the Government and the Ministers to make sure those goals are achieved."
Mr Camp said as part of the team working on the Northern Beef Futures committee, he said they had been waiting for some time to see if funding would get passed by Cabinet and were pleased to see it come through.
"At the end of the day its not producers who decide which markets we use, its the exporters," Mr Camp said.
"Realistically, it will boil down to whether we have the cattle that will suit those markets."
Regional Development Minister Terry Redman said greater export success would improve the bottom line for cattle producers and those along the food supply chain, and help cement the future for WA's regional communities.
"Northern Beef Futures will establish the diversity of supply chains needed for the industry to grow," Mr Redman said.
"It will also provide the Kimberley and Pilbara beef industries with co-ordinated supply chains and enhanced production methods needed to supply new and growing markets. Industry involvement, visibility, support and leadership will be the key to the success of the Northern Beef Futures project and industry."
Trade development will be a key component of Northern Beef Futures, with specialist support from the Western Australian trade offices in Shanghai and Hangzhou in China.
A major beef technology demonstration hub is intended to be established near Broome with other demonstration sites across the north of the State.