THE Federal Government’s announcement to establish a working group to advise the Government on a strategic policy framework for Australia’s food industry has been welcomed by the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) and National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) today.
Federal Agriculture Minister Tony Burke said he wanted Australia to adopt the same “strategic approach to food manufacturing” that has been taken with the car industry – “simple as that.” As a result, Mr Burke announced a food working group to help design the food industry blueprint involving government and industry leaders including the AFGC and NFF.
AFGC Chief Executive Kate Carnell welcomed the Government’s move, saying a partnership approach involving relevant stakeholders was vital to plan and achieve a strategy to ensure Australia has a safe, nutritious and sustainable food supply into the future.
“Australians want a robust local food production and processing sector – they don’t want to be increasingly reliant on imports for our food supply,” Ms Carnell said.
“With a growing population and demand for food globally, we need a change of direction to highlight the importance of research and development for innovation, water use and sustainability as well as focusing on the whole value chain from farm-gate to the consumer.”
Food and grocery is Australia’s largest manufacturing sector worth more than $100 billion annually in turn-over to the nation and employs 315,000 people across Australia, including more than 150,000 in rural and region Australia.
Australian farms and their closely related sectors generate $137 billion-a-year in production – underpinning 12 per cent of GDP – and support more than 317,000 direct jobs on Australian farms with a flow-through of about 1.6 million jobs across the nation.
NFF President David Crombie said: “The world needs food and fibre like never before and we are damn good at producing it but Australians take this for granted at our peril.”
“The Government needs to work with industry, right through the supply chain, in a strategic and long-term way. We need to make sure policies are geared to Australia’s interests – domestically to keep quality high and prices competitive and globally to meet surging demand. Australia’s farmers and processing sectors will get on with the job but we need a visionary and proactive policy environment that supports our efforts,” Mr Crombie said.
Mr Crombie noted it comes down to things like agricultural research, balanced water reform, a world-class biosecurity regime and efficient road, rail and port networks.