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Kimberley fruit & veg plan

THE Kimberley Primary Industries Association is examining the viability of establishing fruit and vegetable packing and processing facilities in the Ord River Irrigation area, in addition to a regional brand.

The move coincides with the release of a study that examines the viability of first-stage fruit and vegetable processing facilities across Australia.

The study, undertaken by agricultural consulting firm David McKinna Pty Ltd in conjunction with Horticulture Australia Limited, found opportunities for value adding in various regions across Australia.

Dr David McKinna, who headed up the study, said there were three components for opportunities in the Kimberley region.

Dr McKinna recommended that Kimberley producers should establish a regional brand, along with packing and processing facilities to achieve critical mass and increase sales.

“I have been [to the Kimberley region] two or three times now and what strikes me is the opportunity for one or two packing sheds, and the logical adjunct to that is to establish a regional brand so that producers could pool marketing efforts,” Dr McKinna said.

He said the third component was for first-stage processing facilities that could use fruit and vegetables, which would otherwise be dumped, to produce ingredients for sale to other producers.

“The type of facility I would suggest would be a multi-product, multi-function facility that could dice, pulp, juice and so on, across a range of produce,” Dr McKinna said.

One example would be the production of tomato puree to be on-sold and used as an ingredient in pasta sauce, he said.

Kimberley Primary Industries Association executive officer David McKerrell, who is also holding trials into maximising opportunities in the cut-flower industry in the Kimberley, said the region had huge potential.

“Because of the area that we’re in — it’s a long way from anywhere — you can really only send top quality fruit away,” Mr McKerrell said.

He said fruit that was less than perfect could not be marketed.

Fruit with minor blemishes, was misshapen or the wrong size was often dumped, he said, and that produce could instead be sold as first-stage value-added product.

“We believe that this study shows clearly that there are viable options for processing fruit and vegetables,” Mr McKerrell said.

“However, we need to identify the markets and exact products that are viable.”

Possibilities include pumpkin, which is in high demand in both Australia and Japan.

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