AGRICULTURAL industries are powering ahead in the greater Toowoomba region, with global demand a pillar in driving the district forward.
The region is both a major producer of commodities including broad acre crops, grains, fibers, cotton and wool and is increasingly expanding its food production.
Beef, pork, poultry, dairy and an abundance of fruit and vegetables are grown in the region and export opportunities are expanding.
While 50 per cent of agricultural products from the region are exported through the Port of Brisbane, recent international freight flights from Wellcamp Airport to Hong Kong is contributing to the growth.
Toowoomba Surat Basin Enterprise – Food Leaders Australia Export Manager Geraldine Doumany said evaluating supply chains for sustainable growth and preparing agricultural companies for export was a focus for the region.
Food production is a significant and expanding contributor to the region.
Toowoomba and the surrounding regions are host to Australia’s largest concentration of cattle feedlots, with seven, supplying product to a cluster of local export accredited meat processors.
Ms Doumany said there was growing interest in intensive lamb production and feedlotting in the area.
The large scale pork, poultry and egg production sectors are also looking at export markets, with value added product.
Ms Doumany said the pulse industry had gained momentum in the last two to three years, and while Indian tariff increases from 30 to 60 per cent had cause disruption in the market, companies were diversifying.
She said horticulture, which had been traditionally been a hotbed in the Lockyer Valley, was increasingly expanding into the Downs areas.
In Stanthorpe, vegetable and fruit crops including apples, pears and stone fruits were being planted, while loose leaf lettuce production is increasing, with some being pre-packed instead of being a loose box commodity, to enable export opportunities.
Protected/covered horticulture is increasing on a large scale, based on leading edge European designs.
Ms Doumany said many growers in the region were being more proactive in controlling how their product was supplied and marketed.
“Many in agriculture from small family enterprises are growing quality product, so they are wanting to control more of the supply chain to market, as opposed to giving up ownership at the farm gate,” she said.
“They are looking at branding their product, and telling their story, not only for supply into the domestic market in terms of value added product, they are also looking at the potential for export as well.”
Ms Doumany said global connectiveness from the region would increase the potential for international markets.
“There is in part a focus on Asia, with the growing middle class on our doorstep, with not only China, but 10 other Asian countries as well.
“The UK and EU has the potential to be another market of focus, with Brexit and the realignment of trade, and we still have a proportion selling to the US.
A new program which commenced this year, the Shell QGC Emerging Exporters Program aims to support the development of companies wanting to take their product beyond the farm gate and develop export capabilities.
Ms Doumany said the program was not only for producers, but all companies across the agribusiness supply chain.
“Economic diversity and strong regional economic growth is import to these communities, and this three year program has been developed and implemented by Shell’s QGC in response to community consultation,” she said.
Information sessions about how to get involved with the next round of the program will be held next February.