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Transcript of interview with Brent Bultitude: 2SM: 26 August 2009: green tea exports.

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The Hon. Tony Burke MP

Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry

Tony Burke - interview with 2SM 1269AM Afternoons with Brent Bultitude

26 August 2009

Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry - Tony Burke 2SM 1269AM Afternoons with Brent Bultitude


SUBJECTS: Green tea exports

BRENT BULTITUDE: Forget selling ice to the Eskimos, as they say. Australia could soon be selling green tea to Japan. When I saw this in one of the papers, I couldn’t believe it so I thought we’d talk first up this afternoon to the Federal Agriculture Minister Tony Burke. Tony, good afternoon, how are you?

TONY BURKE: Very well thanks Brent, very well.

BRENT BULTITUDE: Thanks for taking the time to talk to us this afternoon. We’ve been talking about all sorts of things with the Government doing this and doing that.. with the insulation..

TONY BURKE: Well, don’t put the tea in the ceiling.

BRENT BULTITUDE: It might be good insulation, you never know. Hey listen this is good news. Is it like selling ice to the Eskimos, selling green tea to Japan?

TONY BURKE: Well the closest example I’ve got is that we are already selling extra virgin olive oil to Italy. There’s good opportunities for us here, and one of the particularly exciting things about the green tea opportunities, is that one of the areas that’s been isolated is the Central Coast of NSW so we’ve already got some green tea going on there. The NSW Government at their Somersby research farm have been growing some green tea there for about ten years. A company called Kunitaro out at Mangrove Mountain - a little bit away from Somersby - has been growing about five hectares worth of green tea plantation. They reckon they can go up in the next six years from five hectares to 4,000. They’re already exporting some of that green tea to Japan. So the demand is there and we have a couple of pockets in Australia where our climate almost perfectly matches the area that is the home of green tea in Japan: the Shizuoka region.

The advice that’s come back from the report— it’s hundreds of pages long, the analysis that’s gone into it— is this one is likely to be a goer.

BRENT BULTITUDE: The other place is Albury-Wodonga because our super radio network, we go all over the place. We go to NSW, Southern QLD, all over the place. So it can be grown in the Albury-Wodonga region,

TONY BURKE: That’s right, down on the NSW/Victoria border there, there are opportunities there. There are a handful of pockets that are isolated in the report. Obviously as a government we don’t go out to the people and say: this is what you must grow here. But we want to make sure that we

make opportunities available that farmers never would have thought of, where the research can be done. And when you make the information available, its odds on the innovation just follows. One of the things about innovation is it’s never finished. You’re never at the end of the line and I reckon there wouldn’t be too many producers in Australia who, in the ordinary course of events, would have said: green tea to Japan, that’s a market for us. But from the report that’s been done by the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation that we’ve now released, says on this one the numbers stack up, the climate stacks up and the opportunity is there for the taking.

BRENT BULTITUDE: So tell me what is the exact climate that green tea needs to grow ideally?

TONY BURKE: Part of what you need is for the rainfall to be there at appropriate levels, but I can’t give you the precise temperature range, but you are looking at areas that don’t get too cold in the winter regions, but also the heat isn’t the sort of deeply humid tropical heat that you get when you go too far north.

BRENT BULTITUDE: So, for example up near Byron Bay and places like that where they grow the coffee up there, it’s quite humid—that’s not good for green tea?

TONY BURKE: Yeah, that’s right, you stick to your caffeine crop up there

BRENT BULTITUDE: Are you a green tea drinker yourself?

TONY BURKE: I am actually pretty big on some of the different sorts of tea, I shop around with tea though, I’m always switching but green tea is one of those usually on the menu for me.

BRENT BULTITUDE: Have you been lucky enough to try this particular tea grown in these areas?

TONY BURKE: Not yet and that’s something I think I’m weeks to months away from being able to land. The first priority at the moment is that if that if they can get the money from the Japanese to sell it over there, then go for it, but at the local level I think it would be pretty hard to go past the Australian product.

BRENT BULTITUDE: You said five hectares at the moment, but did you say 4,000 hectares?

TONY BURKE: Four thousand. And that’s only looking forward as far ahead as 2015. So in a very short space of time, the product is good enough and the demand overseas is strong enough, then that sort of expansion is being viewed as realistic.

BRENT BULTITUDE: Wow, that’s terrific isn’t it?

TONY BURKE: Yes, and at a time when a lot of the news that you hear for Australian farms and Australian producers is about the drought and about hard times, you don’t often hear about the fantastic opportunities that are not even over the horizon; they’re actually starting to land on our doorstep.

BRENT BULTITUDE: Well that’s quite typical. It was a little column in the paper that you would skim over if you weren’t looking.

TONY BURKE: That’s right, but fortunately being able to chat to you about it as well. These are the messages - the good news is often hard to get out but when there is the opportunity to let your listeners know, it helps to give people a bit of confidence about the many opportunities that a country like ours can deliver.

BRENT BULTITUDE: Well if we continue to move forward in this direction, we’ll be able to buy good quality green tea grown in Australia?

TONY BURKE: That’s right. And hopefully we’ll be competing with a whole lot of overseas markets that are demanding to buy Australian green tea too.

BRENT BULTITUDE: That would be fantastic. And we all know the health benefits that drinking green tea gives you.

TONY BURKE: You do have the health benefits of green tea but with any agricultural product, when you buy from Australia, you are actually buying from places that don’t have the same diseases that exist in other countries. You’ve got a whole lot of health benefits simply by starting with an Australian clean-grown product and then you add to that the nature of this one: it’s pretty hard to see the down side.

BRENT BULTITUDE: Tony we’re a lucky country and sometimes we get a bit carried away and talk it down too much but we’ve got to remember that we are a lucky country and we’re very fortunate and this is just another example to support the fact that we are a very lucky country.

TONY BURKE: And I reckon you could pretty safely work on that basis, Brent, that it is one of thousands of stories that are floating around the country at the moment. This one has come to attention because we had a Government research body go out and do the research and formally check how the numbers could stack up and what opportunity there is for expansion. But the opportunities will be much broader than that across a whole range of commodities. And in the short time that I have held this portfolio - it’s only just over the year and a half mark - everywhere you go there are new people doing innovative things with farming, growing products that not many years ago Australians would not have considered as being here on our shores at all. The opportunities flow, and the rest of the world knows that we are a safe country, a reliable country, a healthy country and if we are willing and able to grow it, then they’ll come and buy it.

BRENT BULTITUDE: Let’s hope over the years it becomes as much a part of the vernacular as at the moment: oil to the Arabs, ice to the Eskimos, green tea to the Japanese.

TONY BURKE: It’s a pretty good trifecta Brent.

BRENT BULTITUDE: Thanks for your time.