The Food Bowl of Victoria - Innovation, Export and Diversity
The DFAT Victoria State Office led a senior delegation of the Melbourne-based Consular Corps to Shepparton in October this year as part of the Australian Government’s Economic and Commercial Diplomacy Agenda.
Shepparton accounts for more than a quarter of Victoria’s agricultural products. It is a booming multicultural regional centre and is home to an entrepreneurial Indigenous community, boasting significant cultural, spiritual and historical heritage.
The 12 person delegation, led by DFAT’s Victoria State Office Director, Mr Andrew Cumpston, toured a number of major agricultural producers and food processing facilities as part of their visit. The delegation visited Geoffrey Thompson Fruit Packing Co., Freedom Foods, La Trobe University (Shepparton Campus), Cannatrek, Longleat Wines and Rubicon Water.
Of particular interest was the $160 million medicinal cannabis facility being developed by Cannatrek, scheduled to be fully operational in 2020. Developed under the Shepparton Regional City Growth Plan, this facility aims to be the largest of its kind in the world and will create around 400 regional jobs.
Innovation in food processing, particularly in the dairy sector, was also highlighted during the visit. Freedom Foods outlined the company’s recent $60 million investment in state of the art UHT technology and equipment to produce quality long-life dairy products. Their sales rose 34.9 per cent in 2018-19, with huge growth in exports to China and across Southeast Asia.
Shepparton is a multicultural regional centre, with 13 per cent of its population born overseas. Liaqat Ahmadi, School Captain at Shepparton High, a first-generation Australian of Afghan origin addressed the delegation on the community’s inclusivity and celebration of diversity.
The delegation included consular representatives from Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Egypt, El Salvador, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States.