Marketing a region

Armed with the slogan, 'Europe wishes it had a region like Gippsland', Economic Development Officers from Victoria's South Gippsland, La Trobe, Wellington and Baw Baw Shires took local produce to Australia's largest food fair, 'Fine Food '99' held in Sydney in September.

Economic Development Officer with South Gippsland Council, Robyn Cooney, said the exercise was an outstanding success. "We had over 400 definite inquiries, including at least one national supermarket chain and several international organisations," she said.

"This is largely because we concentrated on the benchmarks for any good food and wine show, namely, good wine and good cheese." Robyn said the group took to Sydney over 40 varieties of locally made cheese and vintages from 21 wineries. Producers also attended which, according to Robyn, added considerably to the marketing of their products.

She said the backing of Local and State Governments was also crucial. "For many exporters and importers, particularly Asian clients, the imprimatur of their Local Government is the sign of a good operator," she said.

"Most producers in niche markets have to work very hard to be successful. Local Government has a responsibility to ratepayers to support local business because it is vital to the survival of the whole region."

Robyn said economic development comes from sustained progress in supporting diverse local producers. She said courting just one or two big companies often does not work, because, while they may employ local people, the bulk of profits go out of the region.

Robyn said Council encourages local outlets to stock local products. By supporting small local producers, profits benefit the entire district. "These outlets cannot rely on local product alone but they can make it a priority and by doing so further reinforce the region's business networks, distinctive character and reputation for fine produce," she said.

South Gippsland is also promoting Agritourism. This aims to increase farm profitability through diversification into farm tours, farm door sales and other projects which bolster awareness of what the district has to offer. Council has sponsored seminars aimed at increasing farmers' awareness of opportunities available to them.

For further information contact Robyn Cooney, telephone (03) 5662 9200.