GROWING MARKETS: Oz Group's Gurmesh Singh and Peter Locke inside the Co-op's Coffs Harbour processing plant off Isles Dr.
GROWING MARKETS: Oz Group's Gurmesh Singh and Peter Locke inside the Co-op's Coffs Harbour processing plant off Isles Dr. Trevor Veale

Job creation grants to open export markets

FEDERAL Government funding towards local farm production companies is aimed to boost employment in the region while growing export markets.

Coffs Coast's Oz Group blueberry company and Nana Glen's Intellectual Vision - a raw food production hub - have shared in grants under the Regional Jobs and Investment Packages.

Oz Group has been awarded a $1 million grant to expand blueberry export markets and to create 100 new direct jobs.

Intellectual Vision meanwhile has been awarded $200,000 to upgrade its Orara Valley Raw Food Hub to create almost 80 new jobs.

The Raw Food Hub, located on Synchronicity Farm, is an active social enterprise connecting farmers and producers with consumers and commercial clients who want access to food directly from a farm.

"This project, and the already announced grant of $1 million for the Oz Group to expand blueberry exports, will between them create more than 100 new direct jobs and as many indirect jobs," Federal Member for Page Kevin Hogan said.

"In terms of wages, this is an additional $10 million that will be coming into our local community every year.

"I would like to congratulate Intellectual Vision and the Oz Group, which will both match the funding, taking the total of the combined investment to almost $3 million," Mr Hogan said.

Oz Group's Gurmesh Singh, vice-president of the Australian Blueberry Growers Association, said the funding followed a record bumper harvest for co-op's 150 members.

"We are going to spend this government funding on things like imaging, machine sorting rather than hand sorting, labellers and all the things that we need to become more export ready in this business," Mr Singh said.

"We will also transist a lot of our workforce from unskilled labour into more technical roles in running these machines.

The Coffs Clarence region currently produces 80% of Australia's blueberries and already locally-grown produce is hitting overseas markets.

"We have had Indonesia and India open up to us as export markets, we did send some shipments over to India to develop those clients over there and we are looking at Indonesia next year but our big hopes are on Japan and China they have been proven customers of Australian blueberries and the Chinese market is unlimited for us."

The funding aims to create 20 jobs during the construction phase and 14 direct ongoing jobs.

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