ABC Rural news: http://www.abc.net.au/news/rural/2017-08-30/native-bush-food-demand-outstripping-supply-says-industry/8855058
The demand for Australian native foods across the country is by far exceeding supply, according to the industry's peak body.
Australian Native Food and Botanicals (ANFAB) is trying to encourage new producers in the industry and existing growers to plant more crops.
ANFAB chair Amanda Garner said demand for native foods far outstripped supply.
"We're a really supply-poor industry at the moment," she said.
"The market has increased due to all the chefs selling and using [native foods] and all the media [attention], so we're short of supply on just about all products at the moment.
"The same with finger limes; you know, if we could increase another 30 to 40 tonnes of finger limes, I think that right now the market could accommodate it.
"The buyers are there; Asia is our next neighbour and they're interested in our native food products for culinary [use] and nutraceuticals is huge, and we just can't meet demand."
In a bid to help grow the industry, ANFAB has embarked on a national roadshow, Growing the Growers, which has been funded $169,000 by the Federal Government's Farm Co-operatives and Collaboration pilot program 'Farming Together'.
It started in New South Wales and will head to Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia, Northern Territory, Tasmania and Victoria.
Finger lime exports growing
Sheryl Rennie has been growing finger limes on her property at Possum Creek, on the far north coast of New South Wales, for more than 15 years.
The native food producer started exporting her crop to the European Union (EU) 10 years ago.
"The export markets have really grown, but it's hard because of protocols.
"You can go really anywhere in the EU but this year we had a bit of a problem with the floods here so we had our sights set on Australia and now we're starting to export overseas."
Ms Rennie said the Asian interest in finger limes was coming from Korea, Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong.
"The fine food market in Asia has just gone nuts, absolutely nuts, and it's a lot closer to home," she said.
"It is because of that clean, green image and there's a lot of rich, quite well off, Asians out there and they like fine food and they like what we've got."
Plenty of room for newcomers
Established native food growers say there is plenty of room for growth in the industry.
Rebecca Barnes from Playing with Fire Native Foods has been in the industry since 2000 and exports lemon myrtle around the world.
"Korea is our biggest market for herbal tea, [with a] little bit into Japan, a little bit into France and we sent stuff to America but that's for the nutraceutical market, not as food," she said.
Ms Barnes said that market access was one of the biggest challenges in exporting native foods.
The Ballina-based native food grower and processor said the potential for growth in the industry was limitless.
"The potential is enormous and everybody and anybody, especially foreigners that taste or see the food, they fall in love instantly," she said.
"There's still a little bit of racism happening and a little bit of 'I don't know if I can do that as a white person' kind of attitude but the industry is overcoming those barriers.
"We're being more inclusive of Aboriginal people and I think the future's sweet."
Indigenous chef wants focus on more native foods
Of the more than 6,500 native food species in Australia, the industry has overseen the research of 14 'priority' species over the last decade.
In addition to finger lime and lemon myrtle, also on the list are desert lime and anise myrtle, Davidson plum, bush tomato, muntries, mountain pepper, quandong, Kakadu plum, lemon aspen, riberry, and wattleseed.
But Indigenous chef Clayton Donovan, of ABC TV's Wild Kitchen fame, said more native foods should be added to that list.
"I think we need another seven, just to slowly introduce that into the TAFE systems and back into the high schools and even lower, just for common knowledge of these foods," he said.
"Anything out of the ocean that hasn't been looked at yet is pretty exciting but there's more than enough stuff on land that we haven't scratched."
While the demand for native foods is growing, Mr Donovan said more education was needed for Australians to be ready for an explosion of native foods.
"The rest of us in the industry keep on pushing and now we've got a lot of different chefs and different people outside the industry that have come into the native food industry," he said.
"But the grand scheme of things, I think we're still behind. Probably five to 10 years behind where we should be.