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"It's very much about explaining what the hoops are and how to get there."

Australian government support to help make fruit and vegetable exports easier

The Australian Government has been trying to make the process of horticulture exporting easier for producers by proving support through Regional Assurance Managers (RAM), as restrictions and regulatory policies are developed between trading countries.

Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (DAWE) RAMs Geoffrey Offner and Richard Valentine addressed the recent Australian Lychee Growers Association Meeting in Mareeba, telling growers the purpose of their role is to help plant exporters better meet

"Part of the reason we exist is the push from the Commonwealth Government to support (agriculture) export industries to reach the industry target $100billion by 2030," Mr Offner said. "We are currently at $52billion, and we are expecting this next financial year to be bigger again. There are often people looking for these opportunities (exports) but don't have a lot of experience in that particular area, so we are happy to help. For the folks that are already exporting and using an establishment in Brisbane, or another port, to get your commodity out, we can look at registering your facilities or packhouses to do inspections there. I'm interested in supporting more export activity in North Queensland if people are interested. It's a regulatory environment even though we aren't on the compliance side so much, that's up to the auditors, we are here to support people meet these requirements; we do regular on-site visits and organise industry forums."

Photo: DAWE RAM, Richard Valentine at the Australian Lychee Growers Meeting

Mr Valentine has been in the department for 19 years, after starting as an agronomist on Queensland's Darling Downs, where he has extensive experience with plant imports and exports.

"When I was in past (auditing) roles, it was about looking at the hoops that exporters have to jump through to meet the export markets, now it is very much about explaining what the hoops are and how to get there," Mr Valentine said. "It's good to see that the department is really opening up the support, so in many ways, it is good to have all these hoops, but if the exporters don't know what it is that they need to meet, how can they meet it?"

Photo: Geoffrey Offner

In 2011, the government released the Authorised Officer (AO) model, to deliver a national training, assessment and auditing framework for the export inspection of plants and plant products from Australia - and provide flexibility for exporters and reduce the regulatory burden. There are now 1,400 third-party AOs across Australia who now inspect over 95 per cent of all plant and plant products bound for export. An independent review of the AO model in 2018 recommended the establishment of the Plant Export Regional Assurance Manager (RAM) network.

"A weakness was that there really wasn't a link between a proper structure between those doing the inspections and authorisations and the programs in Canberra who set the rules," Mr Offner said. "In our roles, we are really here to say if you are looking at the requirements from the Commonwealth Government in getting the commodity out of the country and getting that certification, we are here to help to steer you in the right direction. We are regionally based and our primary support is to third-party AOs, who are those who do the inspections of export commodities to make sure the phytosanitary requirements for import terms and conditions are met."

For more information and contact details, visit the department's website, by clicking here.

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