BERRY GOOD: Smart Berries manager Stewart 'Blade' McKenzie checks out some of the crop.
BERRY GOOD: Smart Berries manager Stewart 'Blade' McKenzie checks out some of the crop. Philippe Coquerand

Growing unrest for farmers

MUNDUBBERA-based business Smart Berries has provided hundreds of jobs and continues to increase its market in the Burnett region but a lack of export opportunities is robbing it of financial opportunities.

Smart Berries chief executive officer Anthony Poiner is frustrated the Australian Government has not pushed ahead with talks with their Chinese counterparts.

"It's true that the Australian Government hasn't established an export protocol to China which is disappointing,” Mr Poiner said.

"It took both Chile and Peru less than 18 months from first wanting it to finally getting it, they've leap-frogged Australia and are happily exporting to China.”

Mr Poiner believes Mundubbera's blueberries are of the highest quality and said China would happily work with the government to start export operations in the Burnett region.

"I believe China's demand for blueberries is growing more than 20 per cent per year,” he said.

"In my business we export lots of fruit to China and our customers are expressing strong demand for our fruit.”

North Burnett Regional Council mayor Rachel Chambers is fully supportive of the idea and said it was one of the reasons she travelled to China in 2016.

"For the North Burnett the blueberry industry has created hundreds of jobs and it is imperative that the Federal Government push these and other protocols like it through their system,” she said.

"It is immensely frustrating that the agricultural and horticultural sectors are ready and willing to expand, which will in turn create valuable employment and increase the GDP yet something is blocking the outcome.

"The Federal Government needs to stop sitting on their hands on this issue and start acting on the advice local government and the blueberry industry have been giving them for over a year now.

"The lack of willingness to get on top of this issue is not only damaging the economy of the business and the bush but also the nation.”

Flynn MP Ken O'Dowd said the government was ready to start discussions to get the protocol under way.

"The Australian government is aware of the potential for Australian blueberries in overseas markets, including China, and is working collaboratively with the industry to help them capitalise on export opportunities,” he said.

Mr Poiner had one request.

"A reasonable objective would be to have the Australian Government commence negotiations with China before November,” he said.