18 January 2002

Farmers go down under in search of better prospects

By Andrew Shirley

BRITISH farmers may feel unloved at home, but the Government of Western Australia is launching a campaign to lure pig and dairy producers to a sunnier lifestyle down under.

Jessica Purbrick-Herbst, of the state governments trade investment department, says it is keen to encourage joint ventures with pork and milk businesses in the UK, Denmark and Holland, but would also encourage people who wanted to set up their own operation in the region.

"We are looking for skilled people – a lot of countries produce pigs but not all do it very well. The UKs pig producers have coped with some very tough times and we want to capitalise on that mindset."

She reckons Australia has a number of advantages to offer farmers prepared to make the move – one of the biggest being the lack of diseases that have blighted the European industry. "Australia has strict quarantine laws and because of the space it is easier to isolate infected farms."

Western Australia also has access to a number of rapidly growing Asian markets, she notes. "We operate a programme called Air Pork which sends fresh pork to Singapore by air. No other country is close enough to do that."

Pork exports are currently worth £5.9m/year, but this represents only 6% of the states production which runs to 38,000t/year based upon a breeding herd of 36,000 sows. The aim is to increase this to over 50,000 animals within five years.

The potential for increasing milk output is also huge, believes Ms Purbrick-Herbst. Production, she says, runs to 400m litres/year at the moment but this could be easily doubled.

Two seminars are being held to highlight the opportunities. Dairy farmers should head to the Royal Agricultural College, Cirencester, on Mar 14 while pig men can get all the details on Mar 12 at the Hilton Leeds Garforth hotel. Further information from jessica@wago.co.uk or 0207-395 0566. &#42

Western Australia is ideal for low-cost, welfare-friendly livestock systems and British farmers are being invited to get in on the act.