The Government’s fast-tracking of money to transform a renaissance of Australian manufacturing is pragmatic and prudent, NFF President Fiona Simson said.
“COVID-19, the resulting supply chain congestions and other challenges have highlighted the real risk Australian agriculture, and the wider nation faces by a reliance on the import of key inputs such as plant protection products and fertilisers,” Ms Simson said.
“Australian farmers continue to operate on a knife edge in getting access to the inputs they need. It would only take one significant international event or diplomatic challenge, and Australia’s access to the products industries like agriculture depend on, could be cut off completely.
“We can no longer afford to be at the mercy of often volatile international suppliers and supply chains. Bringing manufacturing home is the key to resilient supply chains.
“As an important step, we are also calling on the Federal Government to establish an industry-government advisory board on critical supply chains. We need experts in the room to work out what capabilities we absolutely must have domestically and to then prioritise their development.”
Ms Simson said with industry investment matched by the Government’s $1.5 billion Modern Manufacturing Strategy, there was huge potential for Australia to develop its own capacity to manufacture inputs and to develop value-adding options for agricultural products.
“Proof of this potential is the fact that Round 1 of the fund was oversubscribed with only 34 of the 756 applications funded. The fast-tracking of Round 2 will release much needed capital to help eager manufacturers get started or to expand.
“We’re a smart country with big ideas. The NFF applauds the Government’s commitment to match dollar-for-dollar the investment of the private sector in manufacturing ventures.
“Of course, the logical place for the lion’s share of this development is our regions, where space is ample, and communities would benefit from the economic injection that comes from new jobs and new industries.
“When it comes to food manufacturing it just makes sense to reduce the distance between where produce is grown and where it is manufactured. Australia has a product history of regional food manufacturing and we’re excited to see what the future can hold for its rebirth.
“There is also a bright future for fibre manufacturing – wool, cotton and timber and the NFF continues to call on the Government to make fibre manufacturing projects eligible for investment through the Modern Manufacturing Strategy.
“Many Australians would be shocked to learn we process no Australian cotton in this country and very little of our prized Merino wool. It’s time this changed,” Ms Simson said.
The NFF has a goal for agriculture to be a $100 billion industry by 2030, which includes a plan to re-establish a vibrant and viable regional manufacturing sector.