A 12-month project will delve into untapped export opportunities in Far North Queensland.
The collaboration between the Cooperative Research Center for Developing Northern Australia, 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 Cairns region export supply chain study will help drive regional planning for several major projects already earmarked for the region, including the Ports North Master Plan for the Cairns Marine Precinct, Cairns Airport aviation route development, roads and infrastructure planning and a Regional Export Distribution Centre business case for Cairns.
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CRCNA chairwoman, 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," she said.
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, James Cook University, Far North Queensland Regional Organisation of Councils, Trade and Investment Queensland and FNQ Growers.
The core focus of this is to use our competitive advantage, which largely centres around the Cairns Airport.
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," Mr Trompf said.
"The core focus of this is to use our competitive advantage, which largely centres around the Cairns Airport.
"We fly domestically to eight countries from Cairns.
"There's no other regional city that does that.
It's more cost effective if you fill the bellies of tourist planes rather than putting on specific freight services.
"We're leveraging that really well into tourism and aquaculture but we're missing the chance to have more agricultural exports in the bellies of planes."
At present direct flights run from Cairns to Tokyo, Osaka, Hong Kong, Singapore, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Bali, Auckland and Port Moresby, along with seasonal flights to Shanghai and Seoul.
Mr Trompf said the percentage of agricultural exports out of Cairns at the moment was relatively low and this study would hopefully ways to boost that.
"With the changing face of agriculture on the Atherton Tablelands and a significant move to higher value crops, such as avocados, there are chances to tap into premium market opportunities for agricultural produce," he said.
"It's more cost effective if you fill the bellies of tourist planes rather than putting on specific freight services.
"This is about where we're heading if you look at the next 20 to 30 years heading into the Asian century with the burgeoning middle classes of China and India and the opportunities available."
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.
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, Central Queensland University and the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries 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," she said.
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," Ms Morris said.
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," she said.
"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."
The final Cairns region export, and supply chain study report is due to be completed by mid-2020.
- This story first appeared on the North Qld Register.