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Is Australia in the running to become the new food bowl of Asia? YES-YES-YES

Prime Minister Julia Gillard thinks the answer is yes, after she revealed to the crowd at an international food summit last week her visions for the country to become a “global superpower” to meet the needs of a rapidly emerging Asian population.

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“It would involve building our food-processing industry so that it can supply Asia’s growing consumer markets and developing the research, technologies and logistics that strengthen irrigation, grow higher-yield crops and improve safety,” she said.

But her remarks have angered leaders in the agricultural and food processing sectors who argue the Federal Government’s policies do not align with this idea.

Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF) president Peter Tuohey said the looming carbon tax and Murray Darling Basin Authority plan were expected to have disastrous effects on Australian agriculture.

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“The current MDBA plan will remove 30-35 per cent of the water from irrigators, who produce almost 40pc of Australia’s food,” he said.

“If you take dairy farmers as an example – they won’t grow their herd when there is uncertainty surrounding future water supplies.”

Mr Tuohey said infrastructure development continued to be an enormous issue for agriculture too, but recently few investments had been made by the government.


“Victorian agriculture is crying out for investment in road and rail infrastructure to more efficiently transport food and fibre to port,” he said.

“If Ms Gillard wants us to be a superpower – then she needs to understand what is happening out in the real world and get some dirt on her boots. The carbon tax and the MDBA plan are all going to impact on the cost of production.

“The Government needs to realise we compete on a global market and put measurements in place to support agriculture and food production.”

National Irrigators Council (NIC) chief executive officer Tom Chesson applauded the Government’s “superpower” idea, but agreed there needed to be a fundamental shift in government policies if Australia’s food processing sector was to fully take advantage of Asia’s growing needs.

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May 14th, 2012

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