Published by Cobram Courier online and in print on March 12

The region’s farming industry has hit the spotlight last week, with more than $50 million pledged by the Victorian Government for initiatives in the Goulburn and Murray valleys.

The Goulburn Valley Fruit Industry Growing Ordinal, released by Agriculture Minister Peter Walsh on March 4, contained the government’s 15-year plan for the Goulburn Valley fruit industry.

The package includes a horticulture Centre of Excellence in Tatura, a $16 million concessional loans package and a business planning program.

The 41-page roadmap document outlines ‘‘the current situation of the fruit growing industry in the Goulburn Valley, including opportunities and threats (and) develop strategic actions for government, industry and individual businesses’’.

The initiative was released alongside the Goulburn Valley Industry and Employment Plan.

Announcing the plan, Deputy Premier Peter Ryan said it would set out strategic approaches to leverage new industry, trade, investment and employment opportunities.

‘‘Food production and food processing have a strong future in the Goulburn Valley and this plan will implement a long-term strategic approach to manage structural change in the region,’’ Mr Ryan said.

‘‘The region produces 90 per cent of Australia’s processed fruit and has trade links with domestic and international markets, including expanding premium food markets in Asia.’’

Mr Ryan also announced the $5 million Goulburn Valley Industry and Infrastructure Fund open for applications.

On Wednesday, the spotlight shifted from regional production and processing to offshore distribution as Premier Denis Napthine released the Food to Asia Action Plan.

Dr Napthine said Victoria’s food sector would thrive in Asia as the continent’s demand for food increased massively by 2050, and stressed the importance of capitalising on Victorian food and fibre exports.

He said the plan would drive the trade ties with Asian markets and ensure the sector’s long-term growth.

‘‘By 2030, the number of consumers in Asia with discretionary spending will increase sixfold to about 3.5 billion people as demand for food increases exponentially,’’ Dr Napthine said.

‘‘We need to capitalise on Victoria’s strong track-record in international agricultural production with food and fibre exports increasing to more than $9.4 billion in 2012 to 2013, up five per cent on the previous year.’’

Last week’s announcements followed the government’s $22 million co-investment with Shepparton’s SPC Ardmona last month.

AuthorToni Brient