GROWERS in the Bundaberg region are well placed to take advantage of enormous opportunities in the Asian market, said Bundaberg Fruit and Vegetable Growers industry development officer Patrick Logue.
Mr Logue was appointed late last year to link research findings with growers' on-farm challenges.
He will also provide a one-on-one approach for growers to inform industry organisations of their immediate research and development needs.
And to enable greater collaboration with the many businesses that service the industry and growers' needs.
The organisation's executive officer Peter Hockings said although it did everything possible for the benefit of the region's growers, with its limited resources, the organisation really needed to have some extra legs on the ground, specifically targeting industry development.
"Given the old extension service models have been diminished significantly in recent years, yet with some fantastic opportunities knocking on the doorstep of the region, we felt it extremely important to reinvigorate direct grower engagement to help meet their needs," he said.
Mr Logue has worked in the macadamia industry for six years, as a macadamia industry development officer and nut procurement officer for a New South Wales processor.
He also worked for many years in the horticulture industry in Zimbabwe.
Mr Logue said one of his priorities would be getting growers in the region to act together because this would allow them to export some of their products to markets that were prepared to pay top prices.
"We need to have a plan of action to get into those markets," he said.
Mr Logue said the demand for clean and green products in the Asian markets was growing, as the population became more affluent.
He said populations in Asia were moving more towards a western-style diet.
"A good example is in the sweet potato industry," he said.
Mr Logue said if responding to the Asian demand meant changing the varieties of sweet potato that were grown in the Bundaberg region, this made sense.
"Initially we could start with small steps, maybe a container a week," he said.
He said the industry could also look at doing something innovative, such as producing sweet potato french fries.
Mr Logue said there were opportunities in the Middle East, too but the population there was not moving to a western diet.
"We would need to conduct an education program and it is getting further away from this region," he said.
Mr Logue said ultimately China had to be the goal.
"I understand there are restrictions - one of the biggest is that we are not growing the right varieties," he said.
"We produce some of the best capsicums I've seen. But the Dutch export capsicums to Singapore and we can't get our capsicums into Singapore - and that's not right."