The National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) is calling on the Government to recognise the enormous opportunities for Australian agriculture in the Asian century, and to support this through policies that enable growth in the agricultural sector. As the Global Foundation’s Australia in the Asian Century Summit gets underway in Melbourne today, where Prime Minister Gillard will provide the keynote address, NFF President Jock Laurie said in just eight years time, half of the world’s population is predicted to live on Australia’s northern doorstep; presenting unparalleled opportunities for the nation’s farmers. “Four billion people across Asia, enjoying economic growth of around 10 percent per year, represent huge opportunities for Australia’s economy, especially our dynamic farm sector,” Mr Laurie said. “And, by 2050, the number of people who live in the Asian region will have swelled to five billion. These rapidly expanding Asian societies need food and fibre like never before and, due to their growing wealth, are demanding produce of the highest quality. “This is where our Australian farmers have a clear competitive advantage: thanks to our proximity to Asia and our clean and natural production systems. But in order to make this a reality, what we need to see is Government policy that enables us to both build and secure our position. “There are a few key policy areas the Government must immediately focus on for agriculture – strengthening our biosecurity and quarantine systems as recommended by the Beale Review; continuing to invest in agricultural research and development to boost our productivity growth; and ensuring our regulatory systems do not hamper the development of new innovations and technologies to increase farm production. “There is also a very real need to ensure Government policies on land use changes do not impact future agricultural production. Farmers are already concerned about the impact of urban developments, mining and industry on arable land and our water resources. These developments could impose severe restraints on food production – with an even greater impact when you consider the labour shortages facing our sector. “We have raised these issues with Government in our recent submission to the Opportunities in the Asian Century White Paper – and today, we are asking the Government to seriously consider the implications for agriculture in their policy decisions. “In a video address to the NFF Members’ Council in November last year, the Prime Minister said that there is the potential for a new golden era of Australian agriculture, given the rise of Asia. “Today, we call on the Government to ensure this new golden era can be achieved by supporting farmers through sensible and strategic policy decisions,” Mr Laurie said. The NFF’s Asian Century White Paper submission is available http://www.nff.org.au/get/2564.pdf[here].