Food exporters looking to the Middle East for a timely boost

Posted by James Ferre on 27th March 2009

Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Tony Burke, is in the Middle East this week to promote Australian agricultural trade including in wheat, dairy and live animal exports.He will be meeting his counterpart ministers in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates and will be accompanied by representatives from Australian dairy, meat, live animal export and fodder industries – including Dairy Australia, the Sheepmeat Council of Australia, LiveCorp, Australian Livestock Exporters’ Council and Pulse Australia.

“The Middle East is a very important market for Australia’s agricultural trade, accounting for almost eight per cent of our total agricultural exports,” Mr Burke said. “Australia exports around 60% of its agricultural produce and the Middle East is a net importer of food, so there are big opportunities there for our farmers and exporters.”

“This is also an opportunity to continue to work with our trading partners on further improvements in welfare outcomes for Australian livestock arriving in the Middle East.”

As part of the visit, Mr Burke has addressed importers of Australian dairy products in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which is the second largest importer of Australian cheese in the world.

In 2007/08, Australia exported nearly 34,000 tonnes of dairy including cheese, skim and whole milk powders, worth $155 million. One in every 15 litres of milk produced in Australia is exported to customers in the Middle East.

Mr Burke sought and received assurances that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia would reconsider improved technical specifications for Australian wheat.

He also signed an amendment to an existing Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Saudi Arabia on live animal exports. The amendment is designed to improve live animal exports to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, including reduced paperwork for Australian exporters and an agreement to help boost animal welfare standards.

Australia has signed similar MoUs with the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, Jordan, Egypt, Libya and Eritrea.