Spotlight on the Gascoyne

Carnarvon tomatoes look and taste great

When you think of sunshine, kilometres of stunning coastline, tropical fruits and fresh seafood where do you picture? You should be dreaming of the Gascoyne, one of WA’s most abundant food-producing regions.

In WA’s Signature Dish competition the Gascoyne dazzled with home cooks harnessing the best of their local delicacies, but it was Paul Kelly’s ‘Gascoyne Seafood Tasting Plate' that proved the winning combination for the region.

The Gascoyne is 900km north of Perth incorporating the towns of Carnarvon, Exmouth, Shark Bay, Coral Bay and Gascoyne Junction and is famous for its bananas, papaya, starfruit, mangoes, stone fruit, tomatoes, fish, prawns, scallops, oysters and crabs, to name a few.

Boasting 600km of Indian Ocean coastline this region prides itself on its seafood industry but also its fresh tropical fruits and other fruits and vegetables grown along the Gascoyne River.

In 2009 the Gascoyne Food Council was formed, with government assistance, to help bring awareness to the region and its superior produce and in doing so encourage consumers to pay premium prices for their quality products.

The Gascoyne Food Council comprises of representatives from the fishing, pastoral and horticultural industries and is reaching its goal through development of a regional brand, focusing on production, grower capacity and supply chain networks. 

Executive officer Alex Maslen said early research and communication developed a clear picture of the perception consumers had Gascoyne produce in the market.

“From this, clear direction was provided around quality processes and certification, identification of wastage and excess in the supply chain, better management practices on the farm and the need for a far better understanding of seasonality and locality by the consumer,” she said.

Initiatives such as the Gascoyne Food Festival, premium branding by Abacus Fisheries, the Sweeter Banana Co-operative (that cleverly markets a group of local banana producers), the local Gascoyne Long Table Lunch and Chef Direct (bringing growers and chefs together) have all worked to shine a spotlight on the region.

So what plans does the GFC have for marketing and exporting going forward?

“The Food Council’s strategy for marketing has involved building the profile of the regional brand with consumers through events that showcase our product such as the Gascoyne Food Festival, the Gascoyne Food Trail and the Gascoyne Growers Markets, and placing a large emphasis on consistency of quality and supply of products,” Alex said. 

“One of the key marketing efforts has been in conjunction with Sweeter Banana Co-operative and investing in a marketing manager based in Perth on a full-time basis. With bananas as the focus, the Gascoyne product is always under his watchful eye and with close links to the growers, he is able to ensure a quick response to issues and opportunities, and most importantly is always in a position to build the brand with consumers.”

In the basil patch with chef Brendan Pratt from Indiana's and grower Michael Nixon from Riverlodge Assets.

Strong relationships with the major retail outlets Woolworths, Coles and IGA have also provided significant benefits.

“The development of more ‘buy local’ policies have created better opportunities and the regular on-farm and in-store visits by buyers and growers respectively have added to a good understanding and respect for either end of the supply chain,” Alex said.

“Management of supply has become significantly better as sophisticated forecasting tools allow all parties to be better prepared and be proactive rather than react to a surplus or deficit of produce and, given weather fluctuations, this can be extensive on a month by month basis.”

Alex also said due to minimal funding the council has been unable to fully implement a marketing strategy however their key annual event will be the Gascoyne Food Festival held 14-16 August celebrating all the region has to offer.

Alex said strong support with Southern Forests Food Council had also been important.

“Combined efforts of the regional brand messages will benefit WA growers as more and more Perth residents are being ‘tuned’ to the benefits and responsibility of Buying from the West is Buying Best,” she said.

The Gascoyne Food Council has been a member and strong supporter of Buy West Eat Best since 2010 involving it in many functions and marketing opportunities.

“The recent WA’s Signature Dish competition hosted by BWEB was an excellent opportunity to participate in a state-wide promotional program,” Alex said. 

“The Gascoyne has predominantly supplied food to the WA marketplace and with the early season supply for a range of products, we will see further work by BWEB in extending seasonal supply as the weather moves south,” she said.

“And with Perth’s rapidly growing population, in excess of 60,000 per year mostly from overseas, BWEB will be a major educator of new customers about the benefits and quality of local food. In conjunction with the Gascoyne and Southern Forests Food Council there is no reason for any consumer to be without high-quality and affordable in-season fresh food.”

For further details and information about the Gascoyne Food Council go to www.gascoynefood.com.au

Agriculture and Food Minister Ken Baston, chef Don Hancey and Melissa Italiano