UPDATE: VICTORIA has reached record levels of food exports.These new levels have been the major factor in air freight exports from Melbourne airport overtaking those from Sydney for the first time, Agriculture and Food Security Minister Peter Walsh said today.
Speaking from Riyadh in Saudi Arabia during the Victorian Coalition Governments Super Trade Mission to the Middle East, Mr Walsh said air freight exports from Melbourne airport increased 8 per cent last year and for the first time exceeded exports from Sydney airport.
Mr Walsh said exports from Melbourne airport had risen 21 per cent between 2008 and 2012 and that 36 per cent of all exports sent by air from Australia last year had come from Melbourne.
In contrast, air freight exports from Sydney airport had only increased 1 per cent over the same period.
"The significant increase in food exports, in particular shipments of meat to the Middle East, is the major factor in Melbourne Airport overtaking Sydney for the first time,'' Mr Walsh said.
:Exports of food and fibre from Victoria increased 11 per cent to reach a record $9 billion in 2011-12, reflecting unprecedented global demand for our farm produce.''
The Middle East and North Africa region is the third biggest market for our farm sector, purchasing $1.1 billion of food and fibre in 2011-12.
Aviation Minister Gordon Rich-Phillips said the jump in food exports had underpinned Melbourne airport's rise to become Australia's air freight gateway of choice.
"The fact that aircraft can arrive at and depart from Melbourne airport 24 hours a day without restriction also provides it with a significant competitive advantage,'' Mr Rich-Phillips said.
Mr Walsh said 38,000 tonnes of meat were exported from Melbourne airport in 2012, representing 38 per cent of total Melbourne air freight and more than 50 per cent of Australia's total meat exports sent by air.
Meat exports air freighted to the Middle East totalled 29,259 tonnes - around 68 per cent of all meat exported from Melbourne airport.