Far North Queensland producers and exporters will reap the benefits of a significant new project to identify export opportunities for existing and potential high value agricultural products.

The collaboration between the Cooperative Research Centre for Developing Northern Australia (CRCNA), Advance Cairns and industry stakeholders aims to identify gaps in existing agricultural supply chains and examine opportunities for FNQ producers to enter new export markets.

It is expected the results of the 12-month ‘Cairns region export supply chain study’ will inform and complement regional planning for several catalytic projects already earmarked for the FNQ region, including:

  • the Ports North Master Plan for the Cairns Marine Precinct;
  • Cairns Airport aviation route development;
  • FNQROC roads and infrastructure planning; and
  • a Regional Export Distribution Centre business case for Cairns.

Minister for Industry, Science and Technology, Karen Andrews said this new study will bring together research and industry to map new agricultural export opportunities for Far North Queensland.

“The project will provide a vital boost to the region’s economy, creating jobs and opening the door for the CRC, industry, government and research organisations to work together.

“Importantly, this study will embark on a comprehensive look at the region’s current and future potential to deliver real economic success for producers, businesses and the community.”

CRCNA Chair Sheriden Morris said the establishment of a long-term regional investment strategy is critical for the region’s producers.

“Robust supply chain systems which enable producers to access significant growth opportunities and maximise production to meet future international demand, is central to the future development of the north.”

The study will be overseen by a steering committee with representatives from Advance Cairns, Cairns Airport, Ports North, Air Freight Handling Services, the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF), James Cook University (JCU), Far North Queensland Regional Organisation of Councils (FNQROC), Trade and Investment Queensland (TIQ) and FNQ Growers.

Advance Cairns CEO Nick Trompf said KPMG (led by agribusiness expert Robert Poole) will undertake the detailed supply chain gap analysis on behalf of the project team.

This analysis will examine opportunities for value-add processing before export, identify new export markets and outline the infrastructure and supply chain improvements required to meet existing and future domestic and international market demands.

“Value-add processing will reduce the variability of returns for our producers while increasing local employment through diversifying agri-business opportunities.

“Our final report will provide the evidence needed to continue our work advocating for Government and private sector investment in key infrastructure like roads, ports, airports, logistics facilities and communications – which underpin the future growth of the region.”

A broad range of stakeholders including commercial shipping and airline providers, grower groups, regional development groups, transport and logistics experts, and various Government department representatives across trade and investment, immigration and biosecurity and development will be consulted during the study.

CRCNA’s Ms Morris said the project will also inform a broader northern Australian approach to improving agricultural supply chains.

“Advance Cairns has joined with Townsville Enterprise, Greater Whitsunday Alliance (GW3), Central Queensland University and the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) to form the Northern Queensland Agricultural Supply Chain Alliance, while the CRCNA is progressing discussions with the stakeholders in the Northern Territory and Western Australia to undertake similar work in those jurisdictions.

James Cook University and Charles Darwin University have also partnered to deliver a pan-northern examination of northern Australia’s agricultural supply chains, with a focus on the cost of freight in the region.

“The end result of these projects will be an integrated plan to improve and enhance agricultural supply chains across northern Australia, to the benefit of all producers and agribusinesses.”

The final ‘Cairns region export and supply chain study’ report is due to be completed by mid-2020.