Grants Empower Aussie Small and Medium Enterprises to Diversify and Expand Global Exports

May 21, 2020 Updated: May 21, 2020

Hundreds of Australian small and medium-sized exporters (SME) are set to receive a much-needed boost from the federal government’s newly delivered $4.9 million grant scheme, as they scramble to bounce back from the severe disruption caused by the CCP virus pandemic.

Launched in 2019, this second round of grants provided through the SME Export Hubs Initiative will empower ten export hubs across five states to enhance their capabilities to help local exporters harness diversified opportunities globally. This is especially the case in the areas where Australia has large growth potential including food and agribusiness, energy, cybersecurity, and advanced manufacturing.

Minister for Industry, Science, and Technology Karen Andrews said promoting Australian SME exporters’ competitiveness abroad is an important part of driving economic growth and job creation at home, given the nation has started to shift the focus to post-pandemic recovery.

“I’m confident demand for Australian goods and services will be even stronger when we come out the other side of this pandemic,” she said in a statement on May 11.

“We want to put Australia in the best position possible so we can thrive after this pandemic is finished.”

Gippsland Producers

One of the successful grant recipients is Food & Fibre Gippsland in Victoria, a local industry body of food and agribusiness servicing a dynamic rural production area that occupies 18 percent of the state of Victoria.

With a long history in food production, Gippsland has dedicated 28 percent of its land for agricultural purposes, contributing $7 billion annually to the regional economy.

Epoch Times Photo
Sallie Jones , one of the owners of Gippsland Jersey with kids and calves. Gippsland Jersey, a participant in Gippsland Connect Programme, is a shining example of Gippsland producers who have created amazing products that put the region on the map. (Supplied)

Nicola Pero, the CEO of Food & Fibre Gippsland is confident that the funding injection will open more opportunities for local businesses to shine in the international markets.

She said Gippsland is home to passionate food businesses of all sizes, and many of them are keen to tap into overseas markets.

“These businesses are committed to building their capacity to grow and process naturally and ethically produced goods from a clean, GMO-free and pristine environment to supply both domestic and international markets,” she told the Epoch Times.

The hub has been committed to building Gippsland’s clean and green profile in global markets, through its tailored Gippsland Connect Programme, which focuses on niche and premium lines including dairy, seafood, vegetable, meat, and craft beer and wines that appeal to consumers across the Asia Pacific and beyond.

Understanding the importance of a reliable trading partnership, Nicola said the Hub will continue to target markets that are “open for trade, offering sustainability of long-term partnerships and stable trade requirements”.

The Hub will also work with governments, industry, and researchers to access and share market intelligence and emerging trends in export opportunities.

Nicola said one trend the team will be exploring is collaborative online trading platforms and logistics systems, which has the potential to make exporting more accessible.

“This is especially pertinent for the smaller businesses who may be able to combine their individual volumes into collective ‘Gippsland’ shipments, creating economies of scale for a number of producers in the transporting of the goods from Australia to its destination country,” she said.

Subsea Energy Industry

Another beneficiary of the initiative is Subsea Energy Australia (SEA) based in West Australia. It is the peak body for subsea supply and services companies nationwide.

They will use the grants to establish a subsea industry export hub to help small and medium businesses enter the global supply chain and create Australian jobs.

While holding world-leading technologies and skills, the Australian subsea industry has been hit with significant disruptions, from last year’s oil downturn to the recent CCP virus pandemic and another oil crash. These combined factors have limited access to international markets due to budgetary limitations, travel restrictions, and overseas market contractions.

Marius Martens, Chairman of SEA said that the organisation, once operating as an export hub, will be in a better position to assist SMEs to access international markets through promotional activities, specialised export training, and international trade shows.

“A large proportion of the gas that has made Australia one of the biggest exporters of LNG in the world is extracted subsea; and when I say subsea, we are talking about some of the deepest, cyclone-prone and remote conditions in the world,” he said in a statement.

“The skills and technologies, which makes this possible are unique and can be exported internationally to bring further jobs to Australia.”

Martens told The Epoch Times that the major oil and gas hubs in the North Sea, United States, and South East Asia will be the targeted destinations.

The SME Export Hub Initiative provides each successful hub with matched funding of up to $1.5 million for projects up to two years in length.

Export hubs can operate in six key industry sectors: advanced manufacturing; cybersecurity; food and agribusiness; medical technologies and pharmaceuticals; mining equipment, technology and services; and oil, gas, and energy resources.