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WA growing into Asian food bowl

Brad ThompsonThe West Australian

The value of WA's farming and fishing exports increased by more than $1 billion over the past 12 months in a taste of the benefits set to flow from the global dinning boom.

Wheat, canola and crayfish were the star performers as agriculture and food exports hit $6.104 billion in 2012-13, an increase of 18 per cent on 2011-12.

The Department of Agriculture and Food WA figures highlighted the importance of Wheatbelt farms to the economy.

Exports of grains - wheat, canola, barley, lupins and oats - totalled almost $4 billion.

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Wheat revenue jumped 46 per cent - from $1.881 billion to $2.739 billion - to compensate for a 32 per cent fall in live sheep exports to $166 million.

Sales of live cattle, wool, milk and wine to overseas markets were also down.

Exports have grown rapidly from $4.84 billion over the past four years but remain short of the $6.39 billion achieved in 2008-09.

China remained by far WA's biggest customer despite an 11 per cent decline in exports attributed to lower wheat sales.

However, exports to Vietnam almost doubled to $371 million on the back of a flourishing "grey trade" which sees it on-sell WA crayfish and beef to customers in China.

Exports to Indonesia increased by 49 per cent to $617 million after an 80 per cent jump in wheat sales valued at $547 million.

Agriculture Minister Ken Baston said the billion-dollar rise was just the start with the potential to double exports over the next decade.

"There is currently unprecedented interest in WA from buyers around the world looking to secure new long term safe supplies of food," he said. "The State Government is investing over $500 million to expand our food production capacity to meet growing Asian demand."

Exports of live animals, meat and wool totalled $1.11 billion.

The livestock industry predicts a huge increase in trade if markets in the Middle East for sheep are re-opened and Indonesian cattle import quotas lifted.

Israel was WA's most valuable customer for live cattle with exports worth $41 million followed by Indonesia $37 million.

Horticulture exports were valued at $68 million, including carrot sales of $48 million.

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