First exports of perishable goods flown out of Canberra Airport to Singapore
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First exports of perishable goods flown out of Canberra Airport to Singapore

In what could be a game-changer for producers throughout the national capital region, the first shipment of local perishable produce on Wednesday night flew direct to Singapore from Canberra Airport.

It means producers can now get their wares to Singapore within a day of an order being taken rather than wait up to five days through Sydney airport, according to Pialligo Estate director Rowan Brennan.

Pialligo Estate director Rowan Brennan with some of his produce which is headed to Singapore.

Pialligo Estate director Rowan Brennan with some of his produce which is headed to Singapore.

Photo: Rohan Thomson

The inaugural shipment on Singapore Airlines SQ 292 comprised fresh bacon and smoked salmon from Pialligo Estate; Helm Wines and Ravensworth Wines from Murrumbateman, Nick Spencer Wines from Canberra, Lark Hill wines from Bungendore and Nick O'Leary Wines from Lake George as well as Fedra olive oil from Collector.

The produce was on its way to international hotels, supermarkets and leading restaurants in Singapore.

Mr Brennan said he hoped more local producers would use the direct flights out of Canberra, not least to share the costs, but also to promote the region as a centre for food and wine excellence, rather than just the heart of federal politics.

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He believed it would be the start of more perishable item exports to Singapore. While wine had been exported before, the perishable meat and fish were a first, travelling in refrigerated containers to keep them fresh.

"I think once they get a taste of what Canberra has to offer, I think the world will really open its eyes to the produce we have," he said.

Mr Brennan said the future of exports was for producers across the region to work together; with the cost of freight still out of reach for many, who were usually small concerns focused on high-quality goods.

"Freight is expensive and the whole purpose of this very first one is to establish just how good our produce is and let every other producer in Canberra know this is not just about us. It's all about getting them involved so as a dominant group we can send over a hell of a lot more shipment and obviously prices will come down." he said.

Canberra Airport worked with with Qantas Freight, Australian Capital Region Produce and Singapore Airlines to facilitate the shipment.

Canberra Airport managing director Stephen Byron said it was a "momentous advance" in the development of international freight direct to Singapore from Canberra.

"What it means is that businesses in Singapore can place an order, and the shipment will be flown out on the next flight," he said.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr led a delegation to Singapore earlier this year to help promote Canberra region exports and increase the likelihood of Canberra Airport being used as a freight hub.

Canberra Business Chamber chief executive officer Robyn Hendry said the event was significant but there still needed to be more work on encouraging freight forwarders to carry goods out of Canberra rather than Sydney and for the region's small, premium producers to continue to unlock demand overseas to make the cost of freight worthwhile.

"We do think we've gone through a threshold point today, no doubt. It is inspiring. But it's baby steps and there is more to do," Ms Hendry said.

Canberra Airport spokeswoman Melissa Evans said creating a freight hub was still part of the airport's masterplan and the export of perishable goods helped to build the case.

"Pialligo Estate have done a lot of groundwork in Singapore, they've worked out the supply chain over there, so this really is the beginning of things to come," Ms Evans said.

The milestone comes just over a year after fire destroyed the Pialligo Estate smokehouse in Hume in July, 2016.

The smokehouse is now set up at Fairbairn and the business was still working to get back on track.

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"It's taken a long road. I wouldn't say we're back to where we were or wanted to be but we certainly haven't let it make us sit back and say, 'Bugger'. No, we've kept on going," Mr Brennan said.

"We've got our own goals and we believe in our product."

Megan Doherty is a reporter for The Canberra Times

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