OUR first scrutiny of the Federal Government's white paper on Australia in the Asian Century is mildly encouraging.
Since the green paper, it appears the Federal Government has backed away from its rhetoric about Australia's role in feeding the world.
Perhaps it has finally accepted the message from organisations such as ourselves that while Australia exports more agricultural produce than it imports, Australia is not going to be a bulk exporter of fruit and vegetables to Asia any time soon because of the high Australian dollar, higher input costs such as wages, and tiny contribution to global food production.
It is therefore pleasing to see that the Federal Government's white paper includes in its case study on Australia's agriculture and food sector the need to:
- Improve innovation through joint government and industry investment
- Enhance access to markets in Asia
- Support regional and global food security through trade and technical expertise
- Reduce tariff and technical barriers to food trade
- Reduce farm subsidies and export support subsidies, and
- Strengthen supply chains through market access and investment.
There are opportunities for certain products to earn significant returns for Australian horticultural producers in the export market; these are likely to be counter seasonal, niche and of high quality.
We agree with the Federal Government that a renewed focus on productivity and investment will underscore the sector's next phase of growth and that the productivity agenda includes: Skills and education, innovation, infrastructure, tax reform and regulatory reform.
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