Northern Australia is poised to create Australia's own spice trail with plans to grow a new condiment industry.
University researchers intend to run small trials of cumin, fennel, kalonji, caraway and black sesame crops, after earlier glasshouse trials showed they had strong potential for inclusion in broadacre crop rotations.
The $1.2 million spice cropping project will see five crops taken from small to large-scale production within 3 years, under the leadership of Dr Surya Bhattarai from Central Queensland University.
The Cooperative Research Centre for Developing Northern Australia project team also includes seed and crop experts from Agriventis Technologies, irrigation and agronomist specialists from the Burdekin-Bowen Integrated Floodplain Management Advisory Committee (BBIFMAC), economic development experts from the Rockhampton Regional Council, agronomists from the Northern Territory Department of Primary Industry Resources (NT DPIR) and the Western Australian Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (WA DPIRD) and six growers from across northern Queensland.
Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews said this new project again highlighted the value of the Federal Government's CRC program.
"This is a fantastic example of how industry and researchers can work together to identify and fill gaps in the market, which will grow the economy and create new jobs, particularly in regional areas."
CQU's Dr Bhattarai said the team would initially run small trials of cumin, fennel, kalonji, caraway and black sesame crops, after earlier glasshouse trials showed they had strong potential for inclusion in broadacre crop rotations.
"These small trials will be across several different locations and used to assess the suitability of crops for wide-scale commercial production in northern Australia.
"Commercial trials are due to start in the project's final year, by which time we will also have a comprehensive manual for producers detailing which crops to grow, the best areas to grow them and an outline of the market and supply chain opportunities," he said.
CRCNA CEO Jed Matz said the project would provide the foundation for a new, high-value industry with the potential to transform northern agribusinesses.
"This project will build the supply chain links needed to establish a new and viable industry for northern Australia and create new income streams for producers."
Advance Rockhampton General Manager Tony Cullen said Council was proud to be part of the initiative to further Central Queensland's agricultural sector.
"Our team is contributing to the project by helping to identify local farmers as well as potential export contacts and then assisting them in finding the right equipment for their product development," Mr Cullen said.
Agriventis Technologies CEO Lewis Hunter said the long-term goal of establishing a base level of spice crop production would be achieved through extensive grower engagement focusing on extension and adoption strategies.
"We hope to build support among growers for spice production and provide them with the evidence and best management strategies they need to profitably include spices and condiments in their farming systems."
A high-value broadacre spices and condiment industry in northern Australia could replace imports and generate exports to Asia and the Middle East and see northern producers secure their share of the growing global spice trade - estimated to be worth around $12 billion annually.
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