Chickpeas, beef driving Darling Downs' strong export growth

Exports in the Darling Downs for chickpeas were about $192 million in the past financial year, according to industry experts.
Exports in the Darling Downs for chickpeas were about $192 million in the past financial year, according to industry experts. Candyce Braithwaite

STRONG sales in beef, chickpeas and coal out of the Darling Downs have boosted Queensland's record-setting export market, according to industry experts.

Exports out of the Sunshine State topped $68 billion in the 2016/17 financial year based on new data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, and the Queensland Treasury said Toowoomba and Surat Basin had led the charge with a diverse range of markets.

Pulse Australia's Industry Development Agronomist Paul McIntosh said chickpeas enjoyed strong sales to India, with the Darling Downs producing roughly $192 million worth of it in the past year.

"Chickpeas is the big shaker and mover," he said.

"I'm going to say the Darling Downs produced 150,000 hectares of chickpeas, and we would've gotten 1.6 tonnes per hectare yield, priced at $800 per tonne."

Oakey Beef Exports general manager Pat Gleeson said while exports of frozen beef out of Wellcamp airport had been steady in the past year, the future was exciting once the chilled beef market was opened to China.

"We still see great opportunities for more product into China - that's where we've got to target, (but) there are still some non-tariff trade barriers in China," he said.

"We've got a licence in Oakey for frozen beef, but we've got to have that chilled access to China.

"We've got cattle being fed for that market, and we're not able to get the full value out of that.

"We see real opportunities and we've got a vision of putting significant tonne of grain-fed cattle beef on the plane at Wellcamp."

Toowoomba and Surat Basin Enterprise executive chairman Shane Charles said a diverse range of industries was a key to the region's export success.

"Exports generally have been driven on the back of coal - coal has had its largest year than any year in its history in Queensland," he said.

"We've got gas coming out of our region, as well as pulse crops like chickpeas.

"It has been a phenomenal year for exports."

Treasurer Curtis Pitt said Toowoomba and the Darling Downs was a "powerhouse" of the Queensland economy.

"Toowoomba's economic viability and the associated opportunities speak for themselves," he said.

"So I say to any exporters looking to explore new markets, take on new staff or develop new products - now is the time."

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