THE number of young people interested in producing Australia's domestic food and food for export markets is in increasingly short supply, according to the University of Sydney.
Dr Brian Jones, of the university's faculty of agriculture and environment, said although exact figures on the employment shortfall were hard to calculate, in agriculture alone there were about 700 graduates a year Australia-wide in recent years, but job advertisements suggested demand for about 4500 tertiary qualified graduates.
"Similar shortfalls exist for qualified people in other parts of the industry," he said.
"We absolutely cannot take advantage of the opportunities for the industry if we don't develop strategies to address this key issue."
Australian agriculture produces 3% of GDP, but it is the post farm-gate agribusiness sector that has grown exponentially in recent years. The value-adding that happens after food leaves the farm means the food processing and agricultural product sectors account for 12% of GDP.
"Our fresh produce, reputation for safe food and potential to add value explain why Deloitte's accounting firm this year named agribusiness as one of the five 'super-growth' industries of the future," he said.
"Exports to Asia and Africa are seen as major market opportunities."
Dr Jones said industry and government were concerned there were not enough people choosing food production as a career. Jobs in the industry range from farming, food science, marketing, product development, transport logistics, trade, food safety, global food security and international development to packaging, research and policy.
"More Australians are moving into cities and the production and supply chains means we give little thought to food production," he said.
"But fortunately Australians are also increasingly 'foodies', with sophisticated tastes.
"One of the outcomes of this is that people are starting to once again question how the food got to our plates.
"This is a great time for young people in the industry, when real innovation is not only possible but essential. In order to capture the emerging opportunities, we need a new generation of food innovators and entrepreneurs in Australia."