21 June, 2022
French Ambassador explores local food trade opportunities
TROPICAL cacao, papaya, coffee and gin has been showcased to France’s Ambassador to Australia on a tour of the Tablelands region last week looking at export opportunities.
The Ambassador of France to Australia, Mr Jean-Pierre Thébault, and a delegation from the French Embassy toured the Tablelands region including visits to 15 farms and meetings with both Mareeba Shire and Tablelands Regional Councils as part of his broader trip to North Queensland.
Regional Development Australia Tropical North CEO Sonja Johnson said Mr Thébault was a passionate “foodie” who worked closely with RDA Canberra around its food project and was keen to explore the trade, export and investment opportunities in agriculture and food production in Tropical North Queensland.
“RDA Tropical North created an itinerary in conjunction with RDA Townsville and North West Queensland showcasing innovative local businesses producing export quality products and applying best-practice production techniques,” she said.
RDA Tropical North Chair David Kempton said the visit was integral to the Tropical North Queensland Regional Food Network Cluster Development Project which aimed to increase innovation and value-added food products for export markets.
“The businesses that participated in the Ambassador’s visit are part of the local food and agriculture industry cluster which is undertaking several events this year to showcase the local food industry and its associated businesses,” he said.
“Development of the food cluster is one of RDA Tropical North’s pillars to create jobs and grow the Far North Queensland economy and this visit by the Ambassador is an exciting opportunity for the group.
“His Excellency is keen to strengthen the relationship between France and Australia through his passion for food.
“In addition to export opportunities, Mr Thébault looked at cultural exchange opportunities that offered skills training with food producers, farmers and culinary schools.”
Skybury Café and Roastery general manager Candy MacLaughlin said the Ambassador’s visit was a wonderful opportunity to showcase unique products suitable for export.
He attended the business for a breakfast last Tuesday organised by Mareeba Shire Council.
“Skybury coffee is being served at a café under the Eiffel Tower and our next step is to take our value-add papaya products to the international market,” Ms MacLaughlin said.
“Skybury has already gained international recognition for our papaya vodka which won Gold at the London Spirit Awards last year and we have a strong domestic following for our papaya jams.
“Last week we launched papaya seed facial oil giving us yet another unique product to show the Ambassador.”
Regional brand key to reputational success
Mr Thébault said France was extremely interested in agriculture in the region, as the industry was front and centre of the French economy and its way of life.
“We now have the first agriculture counsellor at the French embassy which is a signal that we pay attention to what’s happening here and we are convinced there is huge potential especially in the agricultural field for a relationship with France,” he said.
“Agriculture is a basic identity of Australia as it is for France.
We think there is big potential on both sides – France is proud of long tradition in agriculture and we are the second largest agricultural country in the European Union (EU).
“We have many large companies which are investing worldwide, but outside the dairy industry, they have not invested in Australia.
So the question is what would be the potential on both sides?”
Mr Thébault said with the free trade agreement to be signed between the EU and Australia, there was potential for opportunities for investment on both sides which could range from research to processing.
He suggested there was real potential for food products from the Tablelands to be marketed to Europe but to be more successful, a brand that would represent the region would create a reputation for its premium products.
Tablelands Mayor Rod Marti said the French Ambassador was in fine form as he spoke about his love of agriculture and farming life to council and community leaders at a dinner in Yungaburra on Tuesday evening.
“The Ambassador suggested that a regional Tableland brand could be a means of overlaying a story and adding value to our range of produce,” Mayor Marti said.