Asian food bowl chance on table

Tamra CarrMidwest Times
Geraldton Member Ian Blayney with ANZ staffer Sabin Ivey, farmer Darren Cobley and ANZ representative Darren Old.
Camera IconGeraldton Member Ian Blayney with ANZ staffer Sabin Ivey, farmer Darren Cobley and ANZ representative Darren Old. Credit: Erin Middleton

A Walkaway farmer says Mid West and Gascoyne producers have a prime opportunity to put food on the table for Asian markets.

Darren Cobley, whose 7000ha property runs alongside Greenough River, recently toured Mongolia, China and Singapore. He said agricultural sectors were largely low-production farms and he observed “a lot of issues” with food quality.

According to the World Health Organisation, more than 94 million people get sick from food in China every year, resulting in 3.4 million hospitalisations and more than 8500 deaths.

Mr Cobley said the Chinese had “trust issues” with food produced in their country, comparing it to the well-publicised Chinese rush to grab safe baby formula from Australian retailers.

The 49-year-old, who farms lupins, wheat, barley canola, Black Angus cattle and SAMM sheep, said Australian branding was appealing to Asian buyers and he hoped to sell into a market hungry for safe food.

He also said there was space for producers to profit from helping to improve and modernise farming practices. However, he acknowledged tariffs and misunderstandings heavily impeded prospects.

Walkaway primary producer Darren Cobley farms lupins, wheat, barley canola, Black Angus cattle and SAMM sheep.
Camera IconWalkaway primary producer Darren Cobley farms lupins, wheat, barley canola, Black Angus cattle and SAMM sheep. Credit: Countryman

“One thing I was asked a lot over there was, why do you hate us?” Mr Cobley said.

“You see, they see small snippets of Pauline (Hanson) going off in their media and assume we all feel the same way. It certainly doesn’t help relationships.

“The other thing is, as a proud sovereign nation, obviously they have interest in propping up their own economy.”

Mr Cobley is director and co-owner of Grain Ac, which annually exports 25,000 tonnes of wheat to South-East Asia flour mills.

The second-generation farmer, whose father founded the Walkaway farm in 1962, was part of a recent ANZ delegation to Asia.

Mr Cobley was part of a delegation of ANZ customers from Australian farming businesses who visited inner Mongolia, Shanghai and Singapore to learn more about the demand for sheep and wool produce in the Asian market.

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