Griffith hosted a range of international dignitaries this week, including the Sri Lankan Foreign Minister, in a whirlwind showcase tour of the MIA.
The arrival of the Sri Lankan Foreign Minister, the Hon. Vasantha Senanayake, and Secretary to the Foreign and Chief Minister Surenthira Kunaratnam to Griffith came on invitation from Troy Stewart and Marcello Casella, who were keen to show off the unique agricultural opportunities the region has to offer on a private tour.
Mr Stewart and Mr Casella made preparations for the group’s visit to what Mr Casella calls “the food bowl capital of Australia”, to promote the region’s strong agriculture industry and co-operation opportunities.
Mr Stewart said his and Mr Casella’s passion for the region has seen them team up in an effort to secure business opportunities and a more vibrant future for Riverina regional industry.
He believes hosting such dignitaries is beneficial to the region and can only improve relationships with Griffith’s global neighbours and partners, while opening potential new markets and contributing to the Sri Lankan agricultural industry.
"We share a common goal in our culture and through our discussions with the ministry and the high priest sending their farmers over for educational skills, we see an opportunity in the Riverina to build the farmers and vice versa," Mr Stewart said.
"Yes, there'll be more visits like this in the future, further ministers from Sri Lanka I've had meetings with Pelisge Harrison, the Agriculture Minister who has a vision on joining us here in Australia in the next few weeks.
Minister Senanayake says Australia is more practical in agriculture, and says the two countries have a history of sharing knowledge after the Colombo Plan was established in 1948.
“The purpose of the visit was to see how Australia and Sri Lanka can cooperate and in particular what we can do in Sri Lanka with Australian assistance, perhaps, with technology for instance,” Minister Senanayake said.
“Sri Lanka can become a venue for Australian investors in regards to industrialisation as well.
“I’ve seen many places of great potential, how we are going to adopt and adapt all of those things in Sri Lanka remains to be seen in a viable and practical way.
“That’s what we’ll be exploring.”
The tour took in a diverse range of agricultural businesses of the MIA, including a visit to a fish farm, winery, the cotton gin, and packing house.
Director of Southern Cotton Roger Cummins hosted the delegation on Tuesday morning.
Mr Cummins built the cotton gin in Whitton in 2011 and combined with fellow fish farmer Matthew Ryan to found Murray Cod Australia at Bilbul.
Going forward Mr Cummins feels countries like Sri Lanka are essential markets for MIA produce.
“This region has this wonderful diversity of horticultural, viticulture, vegetable produce, nut production, aquaculture,” Mr Cummins said.
“It is endless.
“At the end of the day these people are going to come here and access so many products just in this local region, which makes us so unique.
“We can only encourage visits like this to the region and hopefully see use for the produce.”