Govt to boost sustainable farming fund for smaller projects, O'Connor says
By Paul McBeth
Dec. 11 (BusinessDesk) - Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor will pour more resource into the Ministry for Primary Industries sustainable farming fund to back small projects he says "deliver what people want".
At an event launching MPI's December quarter situation outlook for primary industries, O'Connor said consumers are becoming savvier about the provenance of food chains and that all of the domestic industry needs to understand why the sector needs to lift its game to meet those environmental and sustainability concerns. That means producers will need to go up the value-chain and become more profitable to meet those higher compliance costs demanded by consumers, he said.
"We have to accept those and move on and get better value from the market so we can pay for those costs to do business," he said.
O'Connor said the government will help spread that information through MPI to every farmer and will expand support for the sustainable farming fund, which invests in applied research and projects led by farmers, growers and foresters.
"The smaller projects have been very very good," he said. "We're going to put more resource into those small projects because they deliver what people want. They give the answers to questions they have no idea how to find out about."
O'Connor reiterated his earlier message that the primary growth partnership, where the government co-invested in major research and development with the private sector, will be reviewed. He was an ardent critic of the scheme in opposition.
MPI's SOPI forecasts predict primary industry exports will rise an annual 8.5 percent to $41.35 billion in the year ending June 30, 2018, driven by a 15 percent gain in dairy exports to $16.84 billion, much of which is expected to be in value-add products such as butter.
Meat and wool exports are seen rising 4.2 percent to $8.71 billion, while forestry exports are expected to rise 3.2 percent to $5.66 billion.
Horticulture exports are predicted to rise 5.2 percent to $5.42 billion, due to an expansion of gold kiwifruit volumes and sauvignon blanc wine sales to the US, while seafood exports are tipped to rise 4.4 percent to $1.82 billion on higher prices for wild fish. Arable seed exports are forecast to rise 12 percent to $220 million, while other products are tipped to grow 5.8 percent to $2.68 billion due to a resumption of international sales of honey products.