31 August 2009
The Rudd Government is strengthening its push to lure more tourists to regional areas by promoting the fresh fruit and vegetables, cheeses, nuts and other produce for sale at the farm-gate.
Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Tony Burke launched an initial study in March, to look at what drives food tourism and how the industry could grow.
After a strong industry response, the Bureau of Rural Sciences study will be expanded to investigate particular businesses and regions in more detail.
Food tourism, or agri-tourism, can include food and wine trails, farm stays and farmers' markets, outback adventures, working holidays on farms, conservation volunteering and processing plant tours.
It allows farmers to diversify their income and promote their fresh produce by selling directly at the farm-gate or local markets.
Food tourism is already a key industry in many regional economies such as the Tamar Valley in Tasmania; the Harvest Highway in Western Australia; Orange and the Northern Rivers in NSW and Gippsland in Victoria.
The expansion of the project will see further studies carried out in these regions following the initial work and, for the first time, the Tropical North region in Queensland.
Studies have shown that food tourism can generate one-fifth of farmers’ income.
According to the International Visitor Survey 2008 and National Visitor Survey 2008, half of all tourism spending is outside of our capital cities, worth $38.9 billion.
Mr Burke said farmers were constantly looking for ways to diversify their businesses, particularly in the face of challenges such as climate change.
“Food is a big part of family holidays for Australians and overseas visitors and we have the best produce to offer as they drive through the regions,” Mr Burke said.
“Food tourism tells everyone you don’t have to have an Australian holiday on a beach – you can have a holiday on a plate.”
The project, funded under Australia’s Farming Future, is expected to be completed early in 2010.