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Australia looks to uncork supply chains to cash in on Asian dining boom

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Australia's Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said on Thursday his government will develop a plan to uncork freight and supply chain blockages that threaten to prevent local exporters from capitalising on Asia's dining boom.

[SYDNEY] Australia's Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said on Thursday his government will develop a plan to uncork freight and supply chain blockages that threaten to prevent local exporters from capitalising on Asia's dining boom.

Australia is one the world's largest agricultural exporters, with shipments hitting a record A$44.5 billion (S$46.8 billion) last year, according to government statistics.

But high supply costs and the difficulty in finding space on air freight means producers are struggling to meet growing Asian demand - undermining the country's ambition to boost rural exports to soften the impact of a slowdown in its mining sector - a so-called "mining to dining boom".

"Key to continuing strong economic growth is the infrastructure that enables innovation, that enhances connectivity and expands our ability to sell the food and fibre for the big Asian markets opened up by our free trade deals," Mr Turnbull told Australia's parliament.

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An independent inquiry will investigate potential areas for investment and cutting of regulatory red tape. The resulting report will be delivered to the government by the end of next year.

Australia expects demand for freight to grow by nearly 50 percent between 2015 and 2030 - driven by increased exports on the back of several free trade agreements in recent years, most notably with China in 2014.

However, exporters said Australian supply chains are already struggling.

Australia - the world's fourth largest exporter of wheat - has seen sales of the grain to its largest buyer Indonesia fall in recent years as Black Sea exports take advantage of lower transportation costs to undercut Australian exporters.

Sales of smaller, delicatessen products are also being hindered, with producers of top-end foods such as cherries and lobster struggling to find enough air freight.

The announcement of a plan comes as Cathay Pacific said on Wednesday it has begun its weekly flight between Queensland and Hong Kong - with the first flight loaded with premium beef exports.

REUTERS

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