I am really excited to be here at Foodpro. This is an expo which is a fantastic example of the importance of food manufacturing in Australia.
And certainly as the Small Business Minister – and the very first Small Business Minister from the regions – I know how food manufacturing, processing and production is so integral not just to the regions but indeed to our nation.
When the food processing industry is strong so too is our nation. It’s a sign that things are going well, that there are jobs and that there’s opportunities for those who want them in the country.
This expo started in 1967 as a meat trades fair. It’s expanded to what you can see today – many, many hundreds of exhibitors and people for whom food processing is king – coming together to show their wares and show what’s happening with automation.
And what I have heard here today, what I know from my own electorate, is that this industry creates jobs. And with our tax cuts for small business, with the instant asset write-off extension by 12 months, that is also very important for these exhibitors here today, and very important for jobs.
Many of the people here started out as small businesses and have gone on to become big businesses. There are others which are looking to become big businesses and certainly to hire more people.
There’s a lot of small business interest here and I know the trade agreements we have signed with South Korea, Japan and China are good for these small businesses too. There’s never been a better time to produce food. There’s never been a better time to market it overseas.
So I am delighted to be here today at Foodpro. It’s bringing together producers, consumers, wholesalers from all over Australia and there’s a great excitement at the exhibition.
We’ve seen some other manufacturing industries – like the automotive industry – go in decline. Is this industry going the opposite way?
Food manufacturing and processing in Australia is experiencing boom times at the moment. That’s helped by the Agriculture White Paper we released asking farmers how we can help. It’s helped by the new trade agreements we’ve signed with Japan, China and South Korea. It’s helped by the countries the Trade Minister Steve Ciobo is in talks with to bolster even more our market access.
Investors are seeing in our food, in our farms, some really positive signs. Certainly, as a National Party MP I know there’s never been a better time to get into farming, there’s never been a better time to get into food processing and those trade agreements we’ve signed are really helping. There has never been a better time to get into food processing.
And it’s shown here today with so many people coming through the doors. They are interested in how they can make a buck out of food processing. But the exhibitors tell me they are experiencing very good times too.
So, as the Small Business Minister, it’s exciting to see so many stalls. It’s exciting to see so many exhibitors. I just love to see there is so much optimism and that is a very good thing.
What about how many people the industry employs?
It makes up four per cent of our GDP – so that’s hundreds of thousands of people employed by this industry. That number is growing and that’s very good news too.
And across the industry, we see that the average age of the Aussie farmer is falling, farmers are better educated and more and more women are taking family farms on and growing the operation, hiring more people. That’s just fantastic.
With stories like these across the country, it’s an exciting place to be – regional Australia – at the moment. It’s not just in food processing – there’s better housing affordability, there are jobs out there, there’s optimism in the regions. I always say that when the regions are strong, so too is our nation and that rings true with what we are seeing at Foodpro here today.