Growers link to Asia

ASIAN buyers, regional growers and the state government will meet at the Foundry Hotel in Bendigo on Friday to explore trade opportunities between Asia and central Victoria.

Premier Denis Napthine will address guests at the event along with City of Greater Bendigo mayor Barry Lyons and others in agribusiness and government.

The event, titled "The Food Boom Summit: Growing the value chain to Asia", is organised by the Central Victorian Agribusiness Forum and is almost sold out. CVAF chief executive Martin Szakal said the opportunities for growers were greater than many in the region might have thought.

Mr Szakal said a Malaysian buyer, Mr Sing Wee Yek, wanted to find Australian contacts to supply him with a "40-foot container of lamb shoulders every week".

He said Mr Yek was looking to place orders before his arrival and wanted to meet producers at the summit. Mr Yek is interested in small to medium producers of niche products. He already buys entire crops of unique citrus varieties from Northern Victoria.

Mr Szakal said Mr Yek supplied produce to retail chains and restaurants in Malaysia.

We are seeing a greater recognition and respect for the local agribusiness sector. - James Finlay

CVAF chairman  James Finlay said agribusiness was strong in the region and there was plenty of support from government and industry to help the region succeed. 

"We are seeing a greater recognition and respect for the local agribusiness sector due to the enormous economic benefits including the number of jobs and prosperity it provides," Mr Finlay said.

North Central Catchment Management Authority manager Tim Shanahan advises central Victorian growers.

He said farmers were acutely aware Asia was a prime opportunity for export.

The forum comes in the wake of a recent state government trip to several Asian nations to boost Victoria's agricultural trade links with Australia's regional neighbours. 

Guest speakers after the premier will include agriculture industry consultant Neil Clark and ANZ agribusiness head Mark Bennett.

Friday's Food Boom Summit was created on the back of the state government's Food to Asia Action Plan. 

Mr Szakal said the plan advocated for growers, producers and service providers to work together to get greater access to the Asian region. For more information or to book tickets, visit cvaf.webs.com.

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