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Wednesday, 22 June 1994
Page: 1869

Senator NEAL —My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industries and Energy. I refer to the minister's launch earlier this week of two reports from the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation. I note that most media reports understandably concentrated on the first report, Asian Food in Australia, by Instate Pty Limited. Can the minister advise the Senate of the relevance of the second report, Food distribution in China and Hong Kong, to expanding Australian food exports to Asia?

Senator COLLINS —The second of these reports is an invaluable resource which is directly relevant to the success of Australian producers who want to target these export markets. The report is part of the Asian foods program run by the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation, which has been developed to focus on selling Asian foods produced in Australia in Asia. However, the information contained within the report is just as applicable to exporters of traditional Western food. It provides an outline of the food distribution structure of both China and Hong Kong; the statistics of food market indicators; a summary of the food import regulations and customs procedures in both places; and a directory of major food wholesalers and importers in China and Hong Kong.

  I was pleased to receive directly from the executives of a number of major companies that attended the launch a great deal of praise for what they described to me as an invaluable resource for companies in Australia interested in exporting into either of these markets. It is just one example of the considerable investment in market research into Asian food markets being conducted by the RIRDC and other primary industry research and development corporations utilising government and industry funds. Another example is the recent work done by the Meat Research Corporation on beef markets in Korea and Japan, which I will be discussing with it this afternoon after question time.

  The release of the China distribution report, together with the Asian Food in Australia report, are further evidence of this government's commitment to developing a sound understanding of the opportunities emerging in Asian food markets and the actions that industry and government can take cooperatively to ensure that Australia takes full advantage of these opportunities. In line with this objective, the Prime Minister's science and engineering council will be receiving the report Food into Asia: the next steps, this Friday.

  Developed by a working group of senior manufacturing, agricultural and research executives, the report will examine the current state of Australia's presence in Asian food markets. The working group will present a series of recommendations to government covering structural, marketing and innovation policy issues. I look forward to seeing the presentation on Friday and considering this report with the other work that I have just mentioned, and working with the agri-food council to expand the export of Australian food into Asia.

  There is constant work going on across the board into further exploiting these markets with produce that Australia can produce successfully. In this regard, only a few weeks ago, AQIS successfully concluded negotiations with the Hong Kong authorities for the importation into Hong Kong of frozen crocodile meat from Australia—in fact, from the Northern Territory.

  Whilst on this subject, I would like to advise the Senate that the formal approval for that importation to begin has come through in the last 24 hours. Demand for crocodile meat is very strong in Hong Kong, where it is considered to be a delicacy. This success follows directly on the successful completion of negotiations between AQIS and the New Zealand ministry of agriculture and fisheries for the export of crocodile products from Australia to New Zealand. AQIS is still currently negotiating agreements for the export of crocodile products to both Singapore and Switzerland.