Food and Beverage Growth Plan in Melbourne's North, Speech, March 19,2015

At a time when the manufacturing sector is undergoing significant challenges with thousands of jobs going overseas as major manufacturers relocate offshore and Australia's overall unemployment rate sitting at about 6.4 per cent, there is growing concern amongst analysts and economists that resource-rich Australia could tumble into a recession as early as this year. This worrying trend has been manifesting strongly in previous manufacturing strongholds, such as my electorate where motoring giant Ford Motor will shut its manufacturing operations in 2016 and unemployment in Broadmeadows is currently at 27 per cent. The local retail sector is feeling the decline also with combined sales at the Broadmeadow Shopping Centre down 13 per cent in 12 months through June compared with three years ago.In light of this, I want to speak today about a very important report that has been recently released. The report is called the Food and Beverage Growth Plan Melbourne's North and it is a master plan for developing food manufacturing in Melbourne's north region. The report was originally commissioned by the RDA Northern Melbourne and NORTH Link.

My electorate of Calwell lies in Melbourne's north corridor. In recent years we have experienced massive changes in our traditional manufacturing sector. Besides the closure of Ford, due in 2016, our once robust clothing and textile sector is well and truly a thing of the past. Yet our region continues to grow in population meaning that these major global economic shifts are having a direct and immediate impact on our local communities and job prospects for our local people. The dramatic social impact demands that we look to find new opportunities for business in order to nurture new markets and create new jobs, as we evolve from a manufacturing region towards a knowledge economy with high-tech manufacturing supported by research hubs being very much the way of the future.


The Food and Beverage Growth Plan identifies a food hub in the north of Melbourne that provides opportunity for the area to develop niche food markets and products, as well as to develop expertise and research that helps understand and address the importance of food security and the growing demand for food products in the Asia-Pacific region.

This important report heralds a very promising future and presents a growth plan to further develop the existing food and beverage processing and trading sectors. It identifies opportunities to grow the industry by highlighting blockers to growth, and strategies required to respond to them. The report found that the region comprising seven local government authorities—Banyule, Darebin, Hume, Moreland, Nillumbik, Whittlesea and Yarra—have about 400 food and beverage businesses, with a turnover in excess of $1 million a year that generates a gross regional product of $2.6 billion per annum.

Should the key findings of this report be implemented, these businesses have the potential to increase total turnover to $5 billion in 10 years and to create some 7,000 new jobs. Currently, these businesses in total employ about 10,600 people. Melbourne's north generates 13 per cent of Victoria's gross domestic product and leads the state in production of many food categories—such as bakery, confectionery, dairy, seafood and meat. It is home to an eclectic mix of artisan businesses, including boutique microbreweries, premium chocolate makers, coffee roasters and gourmet food distribution companies, as well as multinational food and beverage manufacturers such as Mission Foods, Baxters and Nestle. The ethnic diversity of food produced is reflective of the region's multicultural heritage and part of its identity. 

The findings show that smaller companies are taking advantage of niche markets and alternative channels to market their products outside of the normal supermarket chain. These success stories are happening in our local area, despite the difficult challenges that the current Australian food and beverage sector is facing. And some of those challenges go to domestic production being relatively flat, declining profitability, and margin pressure driven by deflationary food prices, as well as rising production costs and increased competition from imports, to name just a few. 

Adding to the importance of the report is the relocation of the fruit and vegetable market to Epping as well as the region's two universities, La Trobe University and RMIT, who have strong programs in the food science area. In total, this makes Melbourne's north an exciting prospect for developing our food manufacturing industry into the future, and it certainly bucks the national trend. I am very pleased to recommend the report to the chamber.