By Jane Garcia
The Mildura Rural City Council and its Sunraysia Mallee Economic Board (SMEDB) have recently signed Memoranda of Understanding with the Bruneian Government to work together on local Victorian product to be sold under the Brunei Halal Food brand.
The Mildura region has already over the past year exported a range of food items to Brunei, including dried fruit, honey and table grapes, but gaining halal accreditation will further expand opportunities and markets in the Middle East and other Muslim markets.
Halal is a form of food that is allowed according to Islamic law and is governed by verses in the Quran. SMEDB chief executive officer Andrew Millen says all parties will now work together to develop processes and help local businesses gain accreditation under the Brunei Halal Food brand.
"If a company was going to put a product into the Halal Food brand … the company would need to be audited and accredited under theappropriate clerics and that sort of thing," he says.
"It could take some time so I would anticipate that product will be available on the market hopefully by August next year, following the release of the guidelines for accreditation and business participation.
"At the moment, there’s about 200 businesses and organisations in Victoria that have expressed an interest to be part of the food brand and, as the brand develops, it would be opened up into other states in Australia. The four councils that are involved primarily at the moment are Mildura Rural City Council, Boor Boor Shire Council, Hume City Council and Ararat Shire Council."
Mildura has built a strong reputation for quality produce and there are already about 20 businesses in the Sunraysia Mallee region expressing interest in halal accreditation and branding. Mr Millen says the Brunei Halal Food brand will cover citrus, table grapes, salt, honey, non-alcoholic beverages, fruit juices and dried fruit. There may also be opportunities for some forms of ‘natural’ cosmetics and other product ranges.
He says the domestic market in Australia has not been growing substantially in recent years and the region’s businesses need to look at other markets.
He sees halal as an important niche where local products can compete. "When you’re talking about a $600 billion market for food throughout the world, even if you have a very small market as part of that, you’d be doing very well."
The SMEDB and Mildura Rural City Council are also expanding overseas trade links with several countries in the Asian region. About three years ago they developed a relationship with the Yunnan region in the south-west of China by exhibiting at a trade show held in the capital Kumming. The Victorian region now exports wine and dried fruit to Yunnan and hopes to begin exporting nuts.
Mildura and some of the other rural cities in the Sunraysia Mallee region are working on fostering sister city agreements with similar cities in China, and using these connections to leverage trade. Although they are making region-to-region connections, because of the demographics of China, Australian regions are linking into markets that are "huge and quite substantial", according to Mr Millen.
"The Chinese middle class, like most Asian areas, is growing quite substantially. It takes some time to build relationships in China and that’s why the sister city’s important, that’s why the relationships between our TAFE college and our university are important," he says.
"The other two areas which we’re looking into is Vietnam and we’ll be looking at some opportunities in India in 2008.
"We’re trying to encourage our businesses to work with other countries and to make it easy for businesses to do business overseas. We’reworking with the Victorian Government through their international offices as well as Austrade to achieve that."
The biggest tip Mr Millen says he can give councils or state agencies hoping to develop similar overseas trade opportunities is to understand the culture and understand how they do business in the other country. He suggests business planning is not enough, with the need for genuine relationships to be formed in order to deliver long-lasting and sustainable business opportunities.
Mr Millen believes it will become increasingly important for Australia’s rural and regional areas to try and compete in global markets.
"The domestic market is not going to grow substantially and we need to look at alternative markets for our products," he says.
"I think if you approach it as a block – you don’t all do the same thingin different areas – you’ve got economies of scale and you can work with each other. That’s why we believe our trade block in China is going to be very important to us."
Better by design
Victoria’s State of Design festival will now become an annual event, following a $3.2 million investment by the Victorian Government.
Innovation Minister Gavin Jennings says the funding over four years is a key component of the Government’s $15 million Design Victoria Strategy and will provide a major boost to Victoria’s thriving design sector.
"State of Design, which includes the Premier’s Design Awards, is Victoria’s premiere design event and the only initiative of its kind in Australia," he says.
"Design is a fundamental building block of innovation, critical to building competitive industries and a vital contributor to building liveable, sustainable and cohesive communities.
"The festival promotes the value and raises awareness of good design for local business and the general community, and further strengthens the connections between design, innovation and business development."
Mr Jennings says members of the joint venture State of Design Alliance have won the tender to deliver the 2008 State of Design Festival in July next year. Alliance members include Australian Exhibition and Conferences, Winslow Solutions and Studio Propeller.
He says the Design Victoria Strategy is the first of its kind in Australia and aims to encourage the design-lead growth of Victorian industries, particularly small and medium enterprises.
"Victoria’s design sector contributes $4.8 billion to our economy, generates nearly $600 million in exports and employs 67,000 people," Mr Jennings says.
This article first appeared in the December 2007/January 2008 edition of
Government News magazine.
Comment below to have your say on this story.
If you have a news story or tip-off, get in touch at email@example.com.
Sign up to the Government News newsletter