South Australia’s Agriculture Minister Leon Bignell officially opened the Centre of Excellence for the Australian Almond Industry in Riverland on Friday.
Almonds are the largest and fastest growing horticultural sector in Australia and the country’s most valuable crop with a record industry gross production value of $960 million. The country’s almond exports account for nearly 75 per cent of sales with major markets in Europe, India, the Middle East, New Zealand and Asia.
Speaking at the official opening of the Centre of Excellence, Minister Bignell said the new world-class facility located in the redeveloped Loxton Research Centre would provide the almond industry with an unparalleled platform for growth on the global market.
“Research undertaken by the Almond Board of Australia and South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI), at the Centre will ensure we continue to capitalise on this growth and make the industry even more globally competitive. As part of this research, the State Government has committed $4 million over four years to look into new almond rootstocks, varieties, tree architecture and crop management and harvesting techniques,” the Minister said.
“We are also establishing a new experimental orchard site to enable semi-commercial scale evaluation of new almond varieties and new growing systems developed by the University of Adelaide. Right now the Riverland is booming with almond developments thanks to a massive funding boost from the $240 million South Australian River Murray Sustainability Irrigation Industry Improvement Program (SARMS-3IP).”
Regional Development Minister Geoff Brock said growth in the industry would stimulate the creation of jobs in regional communities.
“Locating the Centre of Excellence in the heart of South Australia’s almond growing region here in the Riverland means innovation can flourish at the Loxton Research Centre,” Mr Brock said.
“This research and innovation will support industry growth, creating jobs and all the flow-on benefits to local towns and their communities.”
Almond Board of Australia’s Chief Executive Officer Ross Skinner said the opening of the Centre of Excellence was an important step towards providing a world class facility for the almond industry.
“The ABA and State Government have worked closely together to facilitate further growth for the almond industry. The support of the government has been crucial to establishing the Almond Centre in Loxton, and the growth of the industry’s research capacity,” Mr Skinner said.
“The ABA is pleased to be part of the refurbished and rejuvenated Loxton Research Centre, which from now on will be the home for the Australian almond industry and the major experimental orchard facility for our research and innovation.”