Funds nod to expand markets

Claire TyrrellCountryman
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Market City is rushing to keep up with WA's burgeoning horticulture sector, after the State Government approved an $8 million expansion for the Canning Vale facility.

Works began on a new 4000sqm multi-user cold chain warehouse at the markets last week, to accommodate a growing need for more on-site capacity.

WA Agriculture Minister Terry Redman said the expansion would cater for the needs of the 50 wholesalers already in the facility and allow for other tenants to enter the market.

Mr Redman said the markets had been operating at full capacity for the past five years and some wholesalers had shifted some of their capacity off site.

Chamber of Fruit and Vegetable Industries chief executive Martin Clark welcomed the investment but said it was a long time coming.

"We haven't had any new warehousing here for about six years and everybody has been screaming out for it," he said.

"There is demand for it now, but we have to wait another two years before it is finished. And chances are that in that time there will be more people moving off site."

Mr Redman acknowledged the need for an expansion of the market had existed for several years. He said the State Government was able to secure funds to expand the facility in line with investments in WA's Ord and Gascoyne.

In the past three years, the State Government has allocated $45 million to the Gascoyne Food Bowl expansion and $331 million to the Ord Irrigation district.

Stage two of the Gascoyne Food Bowl Initiative was confirmed last month, with the installation of a 31km pipeline to improve Carnarvon's irrigation.

Perth Market City chief executive Stephen Ward said 49 per cent of WA's fresh produce by volume and 66 per cent by value went through Market City.

He said the expansion would be critical for the facility to retain its market share as WA's production increased.

"This will help us maintain that high level of market share," he said.

"The total (fresh produce) wholesale market for last financial year was 470,000 tonnes fruit and veg for whole of WA, of which 230,000 tonnes went through this facility.

"The expansion will increase our ability to handle more tonnes as we expect production and population to increase."

Mr Clark expressed concern about impending rent increases for wholesalers at the markets, fearing growers could wear these cost increases.

"Rent increases make it less competitive to be here," he said.

"A lot our members aren't in a position to recover any rent increases, except by going back to the growers."

He said difficulties with lease renewals and rent increases could force some wholesalers to look elsewhere to store their produce.

Mr Ward assured there would remain a critical mass of fresh produce wholesalers at the market, even with the rent increased.

He said some tenants were facing rent increases as their up to 20-year lease agreements came to an end.

The new facility is targeted for completion next year.

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