Realising the enormous potential of Australia’s agrifood sector as the preferred source of high quality, safe and premium food for the growing markets in our region requires a more modern outlook and a comprehensive reform agenda for the sector, according to a new report by the Business Council of Australia (BCA).
'Building Australia’s Comparative Advantages: A 21st Century Agrifood Sector' is the first sector “deep dive” flowing from the BCA’s agenda-setting report on Australia’s comparative advantages in 2014.
“The agrifood sector can grasp huge growth potential by focussing on the specific needs of consumers in different markets,” BCA Chief Executive Jennifer Westacott said.
“It represents a window of massive opportunity to increase returns to farmers and businesses, open up new markets, broaden the reach of the sector into the Australian economy, and create new jobs.
“But realising this opportunity requires a shift in mindset and approach from government and industry. Policies need to shift from a focus on agriculture alone to one that encompasses the broader agrifood sector.”
The new paper outlines a comprehensive reform agenda based around three core themes:
• Developing international markets.
• Encouraging business investment.
• Building sector competitiveness.
“Growth in global demand will be driven primarily by Asia, and China in particular. To take advantage of the recently signed trade agreements in the region, we need the government to address non-tariff barriers to trade that are within its control,” Ms Westacott said.
“A priority is the need for substantial investment to enable the sector to develop its productive capabilities. Given the current shortfall, this investment will need to come from both domestic and foreign sources.
“The government should remove specific Foreign Investment Review Board thresholds for agricultural land and agribusinesses, and restore thresholds to the same level as other sectors of the economy.
“The sector also needs government to facilitate the creation of efficient market structures that will support Australian businesses to align their production to meet the needs of customers. The Productivity Commission inquiry into regulation in agriculture should look at these issues across the entire supply chain.
“Businesses also need to develop a more sophisticated understanding of target markets, customise their products to meet consumer preferences, build organisational capabilities and develop relationships in key markets.
“The agrifood sector is well placed to be one of the most internationally competitive and successful parts of our economy. The prize is well worth the combined efforts from governments, businesses and the farming community outlined in this report.”
For further information contact:
Matt Newton, Communications Adviser
Business Council of Australia
Telephone (02) 8664 9207 • Mobile 0409 550 578