Minister wants Queensland to become a food processing leader

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 15th July 2009

Queensland has the potential to become much more than just a substantial producer of raw food products, according to the state’s Minister for Primary Industries, Fisheries and Rural and Regional Queensland, Tim Mulherin.

Speaking at the opening of the 42nd Australian Institute of Food Science Research (AIFST) Convention at the South Bank Convention Centre, Mr Mulherin said the sunshine state was standing at the brink of a great employment opportunity.

“The convention’s title ‘It’s Crunch Time’ in many ways refers to our need to move towards a greater emphasis on processing our own food in Queensland,” he told delegates. “For too long Queensland has been happy to be the food bowl for the other states and simply supply them with the raw materials, which they multiply tenfold in value through processing-now it’s our turn to take on that role.”

Minister Mulherin noted that ‘ready to eat’ food demand was rising and the state was likely to miss a great opportunity if they don’t react swiftly.

“Today people increasingly want ‘ready to eat’ food and this could result in more of our food being imported from overseas and interstate unless our companies respond to the challenge and meet local demand,” he advised. “The extent of existing import dependency is illustrated by the frozen vegetable sector, where our firms supply a substantial share of the national market but we then turn around and import most of the end products.”

“We have a vision to build a $34 billion industry by 2020-that is almost three times today’s value, and we can only do this by processing food and responding to changing demands.”

In 2006-07, Queensland’s food processing industry employed 47,000 people in 3000 enterprises, 99 per cent of which are small to medium-sized businesses.

The Minister said growth in the processing of Queensland produce to higher value forms was vital to Queensland meeting the government’s target of 100,000 new jobs.

“Compared to the southern states we have a much smaller food processing industry and the challenge is for us to turn this around,” he said. “We want to move from being the raw material supplier for other states to the state that puts food directly on our own plates.”

“Our scientists are working hard to ensure we have the technology and the know how to achieve this, as evidenced by the science on display at this convention where naturally preserved fresh cut fruit and bold new fruit lines are on display.”

“Growth in our food processing sector is truly an area with huge potential and we want to foster that,” the Minister concluded.