Grants to help reach new markets

David Charlesworth and Emily AceHarvey-Waroona Reporter
Agriculture and Food Minister Alannah MacTiernan, Patane Produce director Pennie Patane and Murray-Wellington MLA Robyn Clarke discuss the onion grader coming from the grants announced.
Camera IconAgriculture and Food Minister Alannah MacTiernan, Patane Produce director Pennie Patane and Murray-Wellington MLA Robyn Clarke discuss the onion grader coming from the grants announced. Credit: David Charlesworth

South West growers could become the belles of the ball with the announcement of $1 million in grants aimed at building export capacity and venturing into international markets.

Patane Produce in Myalup, Capogreco Farms in Waroona, and Fruit West were among the eight regional agrifood businesses to receive Export Competitiveness Grants.

Announcing the grants, Agriculture and Food Minister Alannah MacTiernan said they would help “dynamic” WA agribusinesses overcome constraints to “leap to the next level of growth and competitiveness” and stimulate new jobs in the region.

“We produce in many of these areas much more food than we consume ourselves,” Ms MacTiernan said.

“If we just focussed on the domestic market, we would be driving prices down and making horticulture unsustainable.”

Ms MacTiernan said shelf life was king in the export industry and the grants would help that issue. With the grant Patane Produce will acquire an optical onion grader to identify internal defects to enhance quality and build consumer confidence and competitiveness.

Capogreco Farms will install a rapid cooling system to prolong the shelf life and quality of its melons for exports to Japan, which will also be available to other producers in the area.

Also for Asian markets, Fruit West will develop a cold chain dis-infestation protocol for apples to meet strict overseas biosecurity requirements.

Patane Produce director Pennie Patane said while only a few years ago sales were split evenly between WA, interstate and international, international markets were now 75 per cent.

“We’re concentrating on Asia and the Middle East at the moment,” she said.

“This equipment gives us confidence to move into these markets for longer periods of time and maybe go further afield.”

“That’s always the thing with seas journeys, they can blow out sometimes, it’s all about having the confidence of what you’re putting in the container that it’s going to turn up there in a good way.”

Touring Patane Produce, Ms MacTiernan said horticulture was the “Cinderella in the agriculture space” after it had previously taken a “back seat” to grain, cereal and meat production.

“We’ve seen really significant growth in horticulture and horticultural opportunity, so it’s time that we all step up to provide more assistance to horticulturists,” she said.

“I think it’s time for us to get a glass slipper on to Cinderella’s foot and take her off to the ball.”

Murray Wellington MLA Robyn Clarke said more courses needed to be available in horticulture at agricultural and technical colleges to ensure the future of the industry, including work placement with the region’s growers.

“We need to partner with the agricultural college in Harvey to see what they can do to partner with companies such as [Patane produce] to assist and also give the students some hands on experience,” Mrs Clarke said.

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