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Chief Scientist backs calls for renewed R&D investment

11 December 2012

A discussion paper released by the Office of the Chief Scientist has supported the National Farmers’ Federation’s (NFF’s) calls for a continued, strong commitment from Government to agricultural research and development (R&D).

The ‘Australia’s Role in Global Food Security’ paper has found that continued investment in R&D is essential in increasing Australia’s agricultural production to help secure food availability, both in the Asian region and further abroad.

NFF President Jock Laurie says the paper recognises the importance of R&D to Australian agriculture and identifies that our most valuable asset when it comes to supporting global food security is our knowledge and expertise.

“It is well known that Australian’s agricultural exports help feed some 60 million people overseas – but our impact extends far beyond that. According to this paper, when the outcomes of agricultural research are considered, Australia contributes to the diets of up to 400 million people worldwide,” Mr Laurie said.

“That’s an enormous contribution, and it demonstrates the real, tangible impact of R&D in agriculture. R&D, and the application of this knowledge via extension, is crucial for Australian farmers – not only in exporting our knowledge overseas, but also helping to boost domestic food and fibre production.

“And we have an enviable record of productivity improvements; built on the back of innovation from R&D and the need to improve our on-farm efficiencies in order to stay competitive. These lessons translate very well to agriculture in other countries.

“However, as this paper outlines, there has been a reduction in productivity improvements over the past few years, and we continue to highlight our concerns re this to the Government, stressing the need for investment in R&D and extension to drive innovation and improve productivity.

“We know that the Government is in a particularly tough fiscal environment, but from this report, it is obvious that there is going to have to be an increase in agricultural R&D funding over the longer-term to lift productivity,” Mr Laurie said.

The release of the discussion paper follows the NFF’s recent submission to the review of the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR). The submission outlines the need for ACIAR’s work in international agricultural R&D to effectively link in to Australia’s domestic R&D system, in order to provide dual benefits for both developing nations and Australia’s primary producers. It also follows the release of the Blueprint for Australian Agriculture Initial Findings Report, which identified R&D as a priority issue for the sector.

Mr Laurie’s comments come as the Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education releases the Australian Innovation System Report 2012, confirming the role of innovation in driving productivity.

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