Melbourne Market is on schedule to relocate from Footscray to Epping on 3 August, with the proximity of the new site to Melbourne airport offering an opportunity to boost Australia's fresh fruit and vegetable exports.
Chairman Steve McArthur told ABC Rural that producers across Australia would benefit from the increased opportunities to export airfreights from Melbourne.
“Bring it here [to Melbourne Market], make it available to export buyers and we can have it on a plane very quickly after it leaves the market,” McArthur said. "Melbourne [Market] is 15 minutes away from the Tullamarine airport, it's a 24-hour curfew-free airport; the opportunity for export from here is very exciting."
In particular, McArthur said there was “enormous opportunity” to increase horticultural exports to Asia, where a growing middle-class and a growing disposable income were boosting the demand for clean, healthy fresh produce.
"[Consumers in Asia] want good, clean, safe, healthy food and Victoria can produce that and we can offer an export opportunity for producers from all over Australia here,” McArther said.
Concerns market move may be premature
Fruit Growers Victoria has expressed concern over the scheduled opening date of the markets, citing healthy and safety risks needing to be resolved.
Narrow forklift passageways, yet-to-be finalised parking and unfinished store fit outs were among several concerns listed by group, which has demanded the opening of the new market site be delayed until the safety issues have been addressed.
The Vegetables Growers Association has also called for the opening to be pushed back one month, with some of the new site’s refrigeration warehousing still under construction.
Melbourne Market authority, however, is adamant the 3 August opening will go ahead.
"We're open for business at 3.30 am on Monday the third, and it will be up and running and I'm sure it will go well," McArthur told ABC Rural. "It won't be trouble free, we will have hiccups, we will have things that we need to pick up and do better, but I think this is a very exciting opportunity."