The value of Australia’s agricultural exports could double in real terms by 2050 in response to surging global demand, according to a new report from the Australian Council of Learned Academies (ACOLA).
The report, Australia’s Agricultural Future, explores the choices and challenges the sector faces on the path to sustainable growth in a changing market. It maps opportunities to increase productivity and build new comparative advantages, whilst supporting the aspirations of regional communities.
Speaking at the launch of the report, Australia’s Chief Scientist Professor Ian Chubb AC highlighted the critical role for science in our farming future.
“In a world of constant change, science and innovation are crucial to Australian agriculture today and will be even more important tomorrow,” Professor Chubb said.
“We need to start with a vision of what we want Australian agriculture to become and then build towards it.
“This report helps point the way to maintaining and enhancing our outstanding global reputation in agriculture, while at the same time producing more in a sustainable way.”
Changing dietary preferences and population growth in Asia will underpin continued demand for exports of Australia’s bulk agricultural commodities, as well as high value food products.
This could result in export opportunities worth many hundreds of billions of dollars over the next few decades, the report finds.
Dr Joanne Daly, Chair of the Expert Working Group, said the time was right for the agricultural sector, with favourable growth conditions emerging from the fall of the dollar and the rise in global demand but said the Australian community needed to be onside.
“Questions such as food safety, product labelling, gene technology in plant and animal breeding, foreign investment and foreign workers, and farm ownership structures call for informed and respectful conversations,” Dr Daly said.
The report’s conclusions include:
– Australia’s reputation for ‘safe, clean and green’ food is a major comparative advantage that needs to be sustained and underpinned by internationally recognised standards and certification.
– In order to meet increased demand, the sector will need to efficiently manage its soil and water resources, including the risks associated with climate change and climate variability.
– Community concerns will impact on how readily farmers and agricultural businesses can adapt, and these concerns need to be managed sensitively.
– Accelerating the uptake of advanced technologies, communications and knowledge systems are critical for success along the whole value chain.
– Ongoing investment in research and development, both private and public, is vital.
First published in Leading Agriculture Issue 10
Full report available here