Researchers establish food hub in anticipation of overseas exports.
Researchers establish food hub in anticipation of overseas exports. Trevor Veale

All eyes are on Coffs' major export potential

OPPORTUNITIES to capitalise on the potential for an international airport at Coffs Harbour are already being taken, with funding now committed to establish a new food hub in the region.

The Future Foods Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) has been granted $35 million in federal funding over ten years, with the advanced food hubs to be established in six locations across the country including Coffs Harbour.

The CRC aims to strengthen the export market, and develop new technologies and incorporate innovations in protected cropping, manufacturing and food science to create high value industries in the food hubs.

Liverpool, Peel and Darwin have also been chosen as sites to house food hubs due to their proximity to Western Sydney Airport, Perth Airport and Darwin Airport.

Speaking to the Farmer Magazine, Coffs Harbour Regional Airport manager Dennis Martin said the short-term vision for Coffs Harbour Airport is to initially become an integrated north coast freight hub for the domestic market, before establishing an international freight hub to send produce to Asia.

"The Coffs Harbour region is already a major exporter of blueberries as well as other fresh produce and is ideally placed to be a regional freight hub for domestic and international markets,” he said.

Mr Martin, who manages the airport on behalf of Coffs Harbour City Council, is now retiring from the position.

The council intend to hand over the long-term lease of the airport to a private operator, and there's hopes from the business community that the new operator will see international flights established in Coffs.

CRC Chair and NFF President, Fiona Simson, said sophisticated technology and stronger collaboration across the supply chain is needed to increase export readiness and scale in booming global markets for trusted fresh foods.

"The global market for foods catering to demand for trusted fine foods and nutritious 'convenience meals' alone is projected to be AU$2.7-$3.6 trillion by 2025. The market for 'Free from' foods such as organics and foods for allergy suffers is projected to AU $3.4 trillion,” Ms Simson said

"Our industry recognises the essential role of innovation as we enter this critical growth phase. The strong backing for this CRC across all sectors is a sign that Australian agrifood is ready to make a leap forward in vision, sustainability and capability.

"We have the talent in Australia to become a global leader both in future food technology and future food goods.”