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Tuesday, 7 June 1994
Page: 1379

Senator ZAKHAROV —My question is addressed to the Minister for Primary Industries and Energy. In view of the need for the improvement of Australia's export performance to remain a primary focus of government policy for some time into the future, can the minister advise the Senate of what action the government is taking to further develop the export performance of rural based industries?

Senator COLLINS —Australian agricultural products have very particular qualities in terms of comparisons with our competitors around the world which deserve to be promoted. That is why the government, through the Agrifood Council which is jointly chaired by Senator Cook and me, is developing a clean food marketing campaign to assist the establishment of Australian brands in Asian markets. The campaign is currently being trialled in Taiwan and from all the reports that I have had it is progressing very well.

  The clean food campaign is not only about market promotion; it involves also a comprehensive strategy to achieve consistently high standards in agricultural production and processing. Gaining access to export markets is a difficult and costly business. The substantial effort involved can easily go to waste, however, if the product does not meet the expected standard. Negative impressions are not quickly forgotten. The cleanliness of our foods is monitored by the national residue survey and the Australian market basket survey. The latter survey recently reported a drop in recorded levels of residues in prepared foods compared with previous surveys, with the results well below internationally accepted limits.

  A $6 million food quality initiative in Senator Cook's industry portfolio was recently announced in the white paper. Quality assurance and best practice production methods are key objectives of the agribusiness program funding out of the Department of Primary Industries and Energy. I am pleased to advise the Senate that a further six initiatives have received a total of $1.5 million in support under these programs.

Senator Bolkus —What are they?

Senator COLLINS —I will tell Senator Bolkus. The Australian Quality Council will receive a grant over the next three years to establish best practice models and pilot projects in selected segments of the food industry. A grant will go to the Australian Horticultural Corporation over the next three years to develop a national program to assist horticultural businesses plan, implement and improve quality systems. The National Farmers Federation will receive a grant to promote national standards in the use of farm chemicals through a training program for chemical users. A grant will go to the Goulburn Valley fruit industry to help it develop fresh export markets through the development of marketing plans that will include a program of quality assurance certification.

  Australian Leather Holdings, a Western Australian manufacturer, will receive financial support towards the construction of a wet blue tannery, which will enable increased export of Australian finished leather. Wirrillah Pty Ltd will receive assistance to develop production systems which will enable the company to pack fresh asparagus direct for Japanese supermarkets. These initiatives are further evidence of this government's strong commitment to maintaining and improving the competitiveness of our agricultural export industries by developing export and quality management skills with federal government support.