Australian fishing could meet all local demand, Senate Inquiry told

A Senate Inquiry has been told that Australia imports 70 per cent of its seafood, which could be grown locally if an international shipping service is reinstated.

Of that, 22 per cent of the seafood sold in 2010-11, Australia came from Thailand, while 14 per cent was sourced from New Zealand.

But local fishing companies believe they can source the amount of seafood required for the Australian market locally.

"Our aim is to start eating into that area," Tim Hess, general manager of Petuna Seafood, which produces 5500 tonnes of ocean trout each year, told the Inquiry into Australia’s Food Processing Sector on Thursday.
Hess said total annual salmon production across the state is trending upwards and now represents 35,000 tonnes per year.

"It’s been increasing by between six and eight per cent a year for the past five years," he said.

While the amount of seafood available in Tasmanian waters is high, the state is facing increasing difficulty to move the product offshore, particularly after it lost its only international freight service last year.

The service was a direct link between Bell Bay and Singapore, giving the state the availability to move its seafood throughout Asia, but now the shipments incur higher shipping costs because they have to go through Melbourne.

Hess said not having a direct link to Asia is “a major concern,” for the state, particularly when they are competing with suppliers in New Zealand, which he says is akin to “an oversized Tasmania.”

"They can get a product into Melbourne or Sydney just as quick as us," he said.

"And they are on to it pretty quickly."

Hess told the inquiry he is currently exporting 10 per cent of his product to overseas markets, but he is finding that increasingly difficult without an international shipping service.

"As Tasmanian exporters, it’s up to us to go out into the shipping world and try and encourage a shipping line to come back onto this island and give us a link into South East Asia," he said.

The Select Committee on Australia’s Food Processing Sector is examining the entire supply chain of the seafood market.

It will look at primary input costs through to competitiveness of the retail sector and the supply to customers.

The Senate Inquiry into the impact of the supermarket duopoly in Australia is already underway, but companies are too frightened to speak up against Coles and Woolworths for fear of the repercussions the corporations can deliver.

The impact of the global market on the food processing sector will also be examined, by looking at the impact of anti-dumping laws and international anti-free trade measures.

Hess wants an “unwritten guarantee” from the federal government on the proposal.

The findings of the Select Committee is due to be reported to the Senate on 30 June.

Image: The ABC

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