Support supplements exports and innovation: Australian industry’s budget wish list to government – part 2

By Gary Scattergood contact

- Last updated on GMT

Ministers are being urged to back exports and innovation.
Ministers are being urged to back exports and innovation.

Related tags: Complementary medicines, Traditional chinese medicine, Medicine

Australian supplements exports have more than doubled over the past three years, but the industry believes the sector can reach even greater heights with more government backing.

Yesterday we reported that industry trade body Complementary Medicines Australia (CMA) has made four key requests​ of the federal government in its pre-budget submission, starting off with a more streamlined regulatory framework​ and a greater focus on preventive health.

The other two, covering backing for exports and innovation​, come as growing demand for Australian products in Asia – and especially China – has led to a sales boom for many manufacturers in recent years.

The Chinese health food market alone – which includes vitamins and minerals, herbal extracts and traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) – is currently valued at US$30 billion and is projected to grow by 10% every year until 2025.

However, the CMA submission, penned by CEO Carl Gibson, said government support would be vital for the 60% of firms which export to continue to reap rewards.

It urges ministers to maintain current investment in the government trade organisation Austrade to support exporters and enhance competitiveness.

“Maintaining Austrade as a strong organisation is vital to Australia’s economy, as are the continued efforts by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to support Australian firms in building strong international networks,”​ states the document.

Raw material potential

CMA also wants to see targeted funding earmarked for AgriFutures, which supports new opportunities for rural industries.

“There is currently a large opportunity to increase the market capacity for Australian grown raw materials for medicinal herbs and for marine-based ingredients, underpinned by Australia’s ‘clean and green’ branding and reputation for quality,”​ CMA adds.

“CMA proposes targeted funding for AgriFutures to work with the Australian complementary medicines industry, supporting additional research and commercialisation to fully capture the opportunity of locally grown ingredients.”

The fourth proposal contained in the CMA submission concerns research and innovation, amid worries that Australia has sometimes struggled to translate high-quality research into commercial success stories.

To tackle this, CMA is seeking greater funding specifically for complementary medicines research and the continuation of the R&D tax incentive, which “encourages companies to engage in R&D to benefit Australia, and is important for both supporting SMEs and for attracting multinational firms to invest in R&D activities in Australia.”

“For every dollar invested in Australian health research and development, $2.17 in health benefits is returned.  Given the potential benefits of complementary medicines as a tool towards health promotion and disease prevention, complementary medicines research should be a priority area for funding,”​ adds the trade group.

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