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SA to host National Almond Centre of Excellence

Tuesday 14 April 2015
Australia's largest and fastest growing horticultural sector will soon have its own National Centre of Excellence in South Australia’s Riverland.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Fisheries Leon Bignell said the South Australian Government had reached an agreement with the Almond Board of Australia for the facility to be based at the Loxton Research Centre.

“The National Almond Centre of Excellence will ensure future innovation and technology advances for almond growers in South Australia and around the nation,” Mr Bignell said.

The Centre complements the investment made by both the South Australian and Victorian Labor governments in almond research and supports the growth of almond production across the river communities of South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales.

The agreement includes a State Government commitment of $1 million per year for four years, with further contributions from industry and the Federal Government. It comprises:

  • Expanding the South Australian Research and Development Institute’s (SARDI) scientific capacity supporting the industry’s research program
  • PIRSA to establish a new research site to enable semi commercial scale assessment of new varieties from the Adelaide University’s plant breeding program
  • A new experimental orchard for research into new production systems and enhanced land and water management, and
  • Almond board staff to be based at the redeveloped Loxton Research Centre together with offices and laboratory facilities.
Mr Bignell, who met with almond importers in India last year, said the Centre of Excellence would help grow Australia’s exports.

“The almond industry is worth more than $160 million a year to our state, with Australia now the second largest almond exporter in the world behind California.

“Almond exports account for nearly 75 per cent of sales with major markets in Europe, India, the Middle East, New Zealand and Asia.

“Initiatives such as the National Almond Centre underpin the State Government’s commitment to develop industries and create further export opportunities through our economic priority of premium food and wine produced in our clean environment and exported to the world.

“This is also an excellent opportunity to bring together the community, industry and scientific leaders at the Loxton Research Centre.”

Minister for Regional Development Geoff Brock said the funding for research was part of his agreement with the Premier.

“As Regional Development Minister I’m delighted the Government and the Board have agreed to this initiative going ahead in the Riverland. It recognises the potential for significant industry growth in the region and more broadly, leading to more regional jobs.”

Chief Executive Officer of the Almond Board of Australia, Ross Skinner, said the Centre would add significant research capacity to the industry.

“The rapid growth recently experienced by the industry has outpaced the availability of researchers with experience in almond production,” Mr Skinner said.

“It has also highlighted the need for an experimental orchard to accelerate the evaluation of the very promising new varieties from the University of Adelaide which are more suitable to Australian soils and climate.

“This announcement lays a foundation for the industry to continue to develop, supported by a strong research community working closely with industry to provide the knowledge and technologies required to implement the almond industry’s strategic plan.

Mr Skinner said the industry’s producers were overwhelmingly supportive of the establishment of the Almond Centre of Excellence.

“The industry looks forward to working with researchers and Horticulture Innovation Australia in developing the future research program that will utilise the resources that the Ministers have announced.

“This will ultimately benefit not only almond producers but also the river communities.”

Minister Bignell, Almond Board CE Ross Skinner and Almondco Managing Director, Brenton Woolston, will be speaking at Almondco – 102 Sturt Highway - at 9.15am TODAY.

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