Recent public policy discussion has focused on the opportunities afforded by the âAsian Centuryâ with Australia being positioned as a food bowl to meet the increasing demand in our region. Yet an informed assessment of our export markets shows them to be highly competitive posing real challenges to Australian agriculture and agribusinesses. Foreign investment is also a vexed issue with ownership at both the farm and downstream levels across a range of industries attracting public and media attention, notwithstanding the need for capital and integration with global supply chains to support Australiaâs competitive positioning.
A recent review of key issues facing Australian agriculture (ANZ Insight, Issue 3, October 2012) highlighted a number of structural and strategic issues requiring innovative responses:
- - Sourcing capital, especially given the debt profile of many farmers, and associated farm business models.
- - Attracting and retaining skilled labour as the human capital required to transform agricultural productivity.
- - Ensuring access to quality land and water resources with competition from other uses, and increasingly community attitudes affecting freedom to operate.
- - Focusing Research, Development and Extension for more effective transfer and adoption of innovations, especially given declining government resourcing and mixed responses from private sector providers.
- - Improving productivity and industry performance to meet production demands and cost competitive positions given overall terms of trade. Current rates of productivity growth are insufficient to enable the opportunities to be fully captured.
- - Improving supply chains both domestically and internationally for greater integration between producers and markets, as well as cost competitive positions.
- - Targeting key markets, especially in the context of higher value outcomes, e.g. branded products rather than commodities, as well as global competitiveness.
In addition, producers and downstream players face challenges related to both increased complexity and volatility. Complexity due to increasing regulation, consumer preferences and market requirements, quality assurance, and the knowledge and skills required to meet such challenges. Volatility due to fluctuating exchange rates, market access and changing requirements, impacts of climate variability, and fickle investment cycles.
The scope for innovative approaches is obvious, not only through technology solutions but also business approaches involving investment, alliances and relationships, collaboration through supply chains and processes at enterprise level. Future editions will explore these in more detail.
[David Campbell from ConnectUs Consulting has over 30 years experience in agribusiness and related industries in Australian and international companies as well as in government and the tertiary sectors. He has been President of the Agribusiness Association of Australia, and a Director of Animal Health Australia and the Sugar Research and Development Corporation.]