How the Northern Rivers will become world famous for food
IF any industry on the Northern Rivers is poised for growth post COVID-19, it's our increasingly sophisticated food and agri tourism sector.
Many in the sector have been hit by drought, bushfires, floods and now a pandemic, but the region's producers are a resilient bunch.
Playing with Fire Native Foods managing director Rebecca Barnes described just how dire it got during the height of coronavirus.
"We took a really big dive at the start of April we were only 10 per cent of last year's turnover," the Ballina-based businesswoman said.
"That was pretty scary but we have slowly clawed our way back up. We had one really large order which sort of saw us through, so we were really very lucky."
The region's food producers received a much-needed boost today when the NSW Government dished out $240,000 to support peak body Northern Rivers Food.
The chair of Northern Rivers Food, Pam Brook, agreed many in the industry had been doing it tough.
"A huge number of businesses in our region have been on JobKeeper and that has been their lifeline, but they also learned to pivot and change during that time," she said.
"I think they have been really creative about thinking ahead. It has been a time to reflect and think what can we do, what can we achieve.
"At Northern Rivers Food we have really come through COVID with a whole new program and whole new way of doing things."
Ms Brooks said the $240,000 grant was an important next step for the sector.
"Everybody knows the Northern Rivers is an incredible destination and does have extraordinary produce, but this just allows it to take it to the next level," she said.
"It allows for a level of co-ordination, of collaboration, and to promote this incredible brand, as a brand. It is something the entire region can be proud of.
"It can become known not only around the state, and nation, but also internationally."
Like the Hunter Valley, King Island or Barossa Valley, the Northern Rivers could become famous for its food products.
For Northern Rivers' based MLC Ben Franklin, it also fulfils an election promise.
"It highlights the importance of this region, so even while we have got the state borders closed, it means people from all over NSW can see this region is not just al about the beach at Bryon Bay of the lighthouse," he said.