THREE months before a Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC) kangaroo meat export analysis is due to report, federal Agricultural Minister Barnaby Joyce has announced the addition of Peru to Australia's roo meat export network.
Mr Joyce's announcement comes on the heels of a recent call by Queensland National Party Senator Barry O'Sullivan to increase the roo meat market on Asia’s eastern seaboard and throughout Polynesia, Melanesia and Micronesia.
Whether the kangaroo meat industry has sought or secured a social licence to harvest what many consider a national icon is not clear, although the Australian Department of Agriculture announced in-store supermarket promotions for the product started appearing in Peru's capital Lima last week.
“Market access for kangaroo meat to Peru wraps up extensive negotiations between Australian and Peruvian authorities on import conditions, health certification and the process for approval of Australian export establishments,” Mr Joyce said in a statement on Tuesday.
“The Australian Government - through the Department of Agriculture and Austrade - has been working with the Kangaroo Industry Association of Australia and the exporter since 2008 to negotiate market access to Peru.
“A lot of time and effort was invested in developing the necessary arrangements to open this market, so it’s pleasing to see this work come to fruition and that Australian product is on supermarket shelves in Lima,” Mr Joyce said.
According to the Department of Agriculture, Australia has bilateral certification for edible kangaroo meat products with approximately 70 countries.
In 2013-14 edible kangaroo meat and meat product exports were valued at $21.8 million.
Marketing spend having limited impact
John Kelly, executive officer of the Kangaroo Industries Association of Australia, supported the scope of RIRDC market analysis, which began in February and is not due to report until July 3.
“It will also look at the gross benefits to the country, to agriculture and the environment, but also the auxiliary benefits such as the motor insurance industry,” he said.
Once that was quantified, he hoped it would give the federal government more confidence in the return on assets that could be expected and more reason to support industry expansion requests.
“Throwing a couple of million dollars at marketing is only giving us incremental sales growth,” he said.
“We are doing reasonably well in our niche markets, but if we are going to help the pastoral industry, as many want us to do, we need to significantly expand our market growth.”
In March, documents obtained under freedom of information showed Kangaroo harvesters were not adhering to the most basic of hygiene standards.
Investigations by the NSW Food Authority found numerous breaches of hygiene and safety rules that prevent cross-contamination of kangaroo meat, including carcases hung from rusty hooks, lack of water and cleaning facilities, and live animals being allowed alongside dead ones.
Critics said the huge industry is still a 'wild west', with vast differences in the practices of different kangaroo harvesters, who hunt animals in the wild without the regulations of commercial farming operations.
At the time of the investigation, John Kelly said kangaroo meat operations faced more stringent tests than other meat producers, with processing operations testing batches when they arrived and when they left.
"The product is held there and not released until the results of that test are at hand, because they are only 24-hour tests," he said. "The level of compliance is as high if not better than the level of compliance in beef, lamb or chicken."
He said none of the breaches had been in the "major" category, which requires automatic shut-down, and most were required to be rectified within 24 hours or one week, and that with only 2 per cent fat, kangaroo was one of the most healthy meats to eat.
The Food Authority undertook 156 inspections in the year to November 2014, and 16 breaches were found.
Mr Joyce said opening up and expanding market access for Australian agricultural products was a priority for the Australian Government.
“Australia has a solid reputation as a reliable supplier of quality agricultural products. Kangaroo meat is nutritious, high in iron and protein, and is a truly unique Australian game meat,” he said.
- With Sally Cripps and Amy Corderoy