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Exporters get a good hearing

A Victorian Parliamentary hearing in Shepparton was left in no doubt the region is keen to improve on its agricultural export opportunities, Committee for Greater Shepparton chief executive officer Matt Nelson believes.

CATHY WALKER July 8, 2014 3:00am

‘‘As with all these processes the key thing will be what the final report says,’’ Mr Nelson said.

The Rural and Regional Committee, chaired by State Member for Western Victoria David O’Brien, is travelling the state taking submissions on opportunities for increasing the export of goods and services. On Wednesday in Shepparton 13 businesses and agencies put their cases to the committee.

Mr Nelson said while government-led trade fairs in Asia were clearly having an impact, his question was ‘‘how do you best join the dots between the GV producers and the Asian middle class?’’.

Committee for Greater Shepparton told the hearing supply chain infrastructure would play an important part in making the Goulburn Valley globally competitive.

Mr Nelson said for example, rules surrounding higher productivity vehicles, which had the potential to increase productivity in the area by up to 30 per cent, were unclear even to large transport operators. Each ‘‘HPV’’ can carry two large shipping containers direct to the Port of Melbourne.

Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority chief executive officer Chris Norman told the hearing that in an export context, his authority’s role was to ensure clean, green and sustainable agriculture in the region.

He said the Goulburn Valley needed government contributions of $80million a year for the next five years to make sure its irrigation infrastructure needs were met.

‘‘I talked a bit about the threats agriculture faced, the regional catchment strategy and the Farm Water Program,’’ Mr Norman said.

‘‘As well as the $80million a year, I talked about the drainage system to get water off the paddocks, which will also require $6million a year over 20 years for upgrades.’’

Mr Norman was asked what tangible on-farm benefits he could point to from the Farm Water Program, such as productivity improvements.

‘‘I was able to tell them while it’s early days, we have already seen increases of between 0.2 and 0.6 tonnes of dry matter per hectare on farms that have been modernised,’’ he said.

Food producers including Australian Consolidated Milk chairman Michael Auld and Tatura Milk Industries Tatura site manager Chris Macbeth made submissions on behalf of their businesses, as did several transport operators, Fruit Growers Victoria, Plunkett Orchards and La Trobe University vice-chancellor Professor John Dewar.

The Hansard transcripts of the submissions will be available online in mid-July. See www.parliament.vic.gov.au/rrc

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