MEMBER for Braddon, Justine Keay, has once again called on the Coalition to put Tasmanian blueberries high on its priority list.
Ms Keay was joined by representatives from Costagroup earlier this month and has taken the campaign for Tasmanian blueberry farmers to gain access to the lucrative Chinese market to Parliament, calling on Federal Agricultural Minister Barnaby Joyce to put the topic on the agenda.
“Opening up the Chinese market for Tasmanian blueberries would create enormous economic opportunity for the state and in particular the North-West Coast,” Ms Keay said.
“Currently there are around 300 full time equivalent jobs in the industry. It is forecast that amount would increase by another 150 to 200 full time positions.
“China is one of the fastest growing blueberry markets in the world yet Australian farmers cannot access the market because Barnaby Joyce has not established an export protocol with the Chinese government.”
Australia’s major blueberry producer and marketer, Costa, has supported the push.
Costa berry category general manager, David Jordan, also met with MPs in Parliament House Canberra.
He said gaining access to the Chinese market would provide long-term benefits for rural and regional Australia, with increased employment opportunities and significant flow-on benefits for the tourism and retail industries.
“The industry is receiving strong support from the New South Wales government and Federal Labor MPs including Jason Clare, Joel Fitzgibbon and Justine Keay, but we still need to see some real action from the Federal government to gain access for the industry,” Mr Jordan said.
“The industry is calling on Barnaby Joyce and the Minister for Trade, Steven Ciobo to take a whole of government approach and provide sufficient resources to progress this issue as a matter of urgency.”
Costa figures show in New South Wales alone, there are several hundred blueberry growers generating more than $250 million of revenue annually and providing employment for 6500 workers.
Costa has berry farms in New South Wales, Far North Queensland, Tasmania and Western Australia, producing around 45 per cent of the country’s blueberries and 65pc of the country’s raspberries.
A Coalition spokesperson said negotiations were underway with Chinese officials to gain access to the lucrative market.
“The Coalition is a strong champion for improved access for Australia’s farmers in to premium markets,” the spokesperson said.
“Australia’s farmers have a large number of commodities they wish to sell into China and agricultural negotiators have agreed with Chinese officials to negotiate a priority list of products.
“The Coalition Government is fully supporting the Australian blueberry industry and has successfully negotiated market access for blueberries into India in 2015, as requested by the industry, and is actively seeking access to Japan.”
Last month, Labour agriculture spokesman Joel Fitzgibbon labelled the lack of access to China as another “Barnaby bungle”.
”Barnaby Joyce hasn't even put it on the priority list for export protocols with China,” Mr Fitzgibbon said.
“Horticulture Australia has recommended that blueberries be added to the priority list but this to date has been ignored by Barnaby Joyce.
“That means Australian farmers are missing out on exporting to the Chinese market where Chinese demand for blueberries is growing at 20pc per annum, making blueberries the fastest growing fresh fruit category in China and worldwide.
“Instead of eating Australian blueberries, Chinese shoppers are eating blueberries from Canada, Chile, and Peru and Argentina.
“While Barnaby Joyce has been sitting on his hands Canada, Chile, and Peru and Argentina have all signed export protocols with the Chinese Government for the export of blueberries.”