Agriculture Minister Jaala Pulford said the government would invest $4.9 million in a new decontamination facility, being set up by Steritch at the market.
“This will be a victorian first, x-ray facility and will allow growers to get in those export doors and access air freight,” Ms Pulford said.
“Exporters are trucking fruit to Brisbane and we estimate the cost would be $7.5 million, over four years - not to mention the wear and tear on the roads
“When we are talking about fresh fruit, on shelves in other countries, time is money, and getting there more quickly is fantastic.”
Ms Pulford said the money was part of the government’s $200 million agriculture and jobs fund.
Steritech’s uses X-ray treatment as a phytosanitary measure, enabling growers to meet export market access requirements.
It is also a viable alternative to chemical treatment or prolonged cold storage of product.
The project would involve construction of a 3396sqm warehouse, buildings, and coolrooms at the Melbourne Markets, which will be a long term beneficiary of the project.
Ms Pulford said unlike some other treatment options, X-ray treatment did not significantly reduce commodity quality and may extend shelf life.
Steritech chair Jennifer Dicker said since using the technology, in 2002, 26 different product lines were now being treated by the company.
”This facility will be the gateway for exports for that produce – we were well advanced to built this x-ray technology in Brisbane but the Victorian government took the initiative to engage with us,” Ms Dicker said.
“This location at the Melbourne market is a standout and a great fit.”
”What we have created is the beginning of a real export partsnerhip, with faster, fresher, safe produce, which is first to market.
Melbourne Market chief executive Mark Maskiell said securing Steritech at the markt was a very significant step in expanding its role into other areas of the supply chain, to create “a hub of international significance.”
The Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF) has welcomed the new treatment facility.
“This is a significant investment that shows the Government is committed to ensuring our horticulture industry remains competitive in the global market,” VFF President David Jochinke said.
“The facility will help our Victorian producers meet the growing international demand for their products, while also extending the shelf life of their produce.”
The facility, to be built by decontamination processor Steritech, includes a 3,396 square metre warehouse,buildings, and cool rooms.
The new facility was funded by the $200 million Agriculture Infrastructure and Jobs Fund, created out of a deal brokered by the VFF and the State Government to inject funding into Victoria’s agricultural infrastructure, up-skill the sector and create new market opportunities.
Mr Jochinke said the farmer group would keep working to ensure key priorities for the farm sector were addressed.
“The VFF has always argued for increased funding in agricultural infrastructure projects like this X-ray facility because Victoria is Australia’s largest food and fibre exporter, so we need to remain competitive,” he said.
Victorian was Australia’s largest state food and fibre exporter in 2015-16, accounting for 26 per cent ($11.9 billion) of Australia’s total food and fibre exports.
The State’s horticulture exports grew by $278 million during the period to total $1.1 billion.