Ag Minister’s farm tour in Gippsland

Federal Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Murray Watt (right), with the Hon. Le Minh Hoan, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Affairs of Vietnam in Gippsland last week. Photo: Zaida Glibanovic

Zaida Glibanovic

IT’S not often the Federal Minister for Agriculture and a Vietnamese government delegation find their way to Gippsland.

Minister Murray Watt hosted a farm tour at the Ellinbank SmartFarm last week for international and Australian delegates from the ASEAN- Australia Special Summit 2024.

The ASEAN delegates were certainly far from home, taking in the scenic views of the rolling pastures of the Ellinbank hills.

The Hon. Le Minh Hoan, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Affairs of Vietnam, headed the delegation that learned of the innovative agricultural practices taking place in the region.

The Ellinbank SmartFarm is a leading dairy innovation facility, fast-tracking innovative technology solutions in a research environment – showcasing research to the dairy industry.

“Australia is known internationally for being a reliable supplier of high-quality produce, including from regions like Gippsland,” Minister Watt said.

“We’re also becoming increasingly known for some of the cutting-edge research and technology that we’ve been taking forward in our own farming systems to become more efficient, more productive and more sustainable, and we’re seeing increasing interest in sharing that knowledge and that learning from other countries as well.”

One of the first carbon neutral grazing farms, Ellinbank SmartFarm, is home to a herd of 450 cows and cutting edge technology.

Trade talks didn’t just centre on agriculture products, as Minister Watt described Mr Hoan’s interest in innovative farming research.

“They were very interested to hear about some of the research being done right here on the Ellinbank SmartFarm in things like how you can reduce methane emissions from cattle, how you can use low carbon varieties of rice,” Minister Watt said.

Minister Watt said that Vietnam is an integral market for Australia’s agricultural exports.

Australian Agriculture, Fisheries, and Forestry (AFF) products have a strong and growing presence in Vietnam. In 2021/22, Australia exported a record $3.4 billion of AFF products to Vietnam, a 39.2 per cent increase from the previous year.

The two Ministers discussed the potential of expanding the trade relationship further.

“The relationship is founded on some of those core exports like beef, wheat, barley, cotton, but there’s been recent progress also in a number of horticultural products,” Minister Watt said.

Minister Watt said of Vietnam, with the booming middle class looking for higher quality, healthier and sustainable food, “regions like Gippsland and Australia in general is incredibly well-positioned to service that growing market.”

“The Minister was incredibly impressed with the research and technology that he saw here in the dairy industry. We are undertaking some dairy exports to Vietnam, but I think we could expand that as well,” Mr Watt said.

With Gippsland producers supplying about 20 per cent of the Australian dairy market, Minister Watt said there will be opportunities in the future for Gippsland dairy to supply 20 per cent of the Vietnamese market.

The Agriculture Minister remarked that the visit was productive, with opportunities for Australian researchers to discuss the supply needs of Asian agribusiness leaders.

From March 4 to 6, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese hosted leaders of ASEAN and Timor-Leste for the ASEAN-Australia Special Summit in Melbourne.