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Australia can lead world food push, NFF challenges Govt
12 March 2010
TODAY the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) dropped a bombshell on the Federal Government’s review of agricultural research and development (R&D) calling for an “expanded probe”, upping the ante on Federal Agriculture Minister Tony Burke “to show real vision and leadership by setting Australia up as the global hub for farm food and fibre science”.
“People across the world are starving,” NFF CEO Ben Fargher said today. “As farmers, we know more about producing more food from limited resources than anyone on Earth.”
In his address to the Australian Institute of Agricultural Science and Technology’s national conference in Canberra this morning, Mr Fargher insisted the government not merely rationalise R&D spending, but grasp the nettle and establish Australia as the world’s leader in farm research and its commercialisation.
“To not seek to lead the world in efficient food production would be irresponsible and a clear missed opportunity,” he said. “People are well aware of projections for Australia’s population exploding to 36 million by 2050 and, globally, we’re looking down the barrel of 9 billion people to feed.
“For Australians, a future with less certainty over food production is likely to see higher prices at the checkout.
“In fact, the United Nations has highlighted that worldwide farm production must increase 70% by 2050 just to keep pace with humanity’s basic food needs. Australia can, and must, not only seek to increase its low carbon, sustainable and efficient food production to be at the forefront of meeting this booming demand, but we can become the centre for the world’s agricultural research effort needed to fill the ever-growing food order.
“We know agricultural research in Australia is a sound investment – returning a staggering $11 for every research dollar spent. Populations are ballooning here and overseas, with many countries increasingly unable to produce enough food to feed their people. A deepening world food crisis is a responsibility for those nations who are good at food production, and it’s an opportunity.
“Australian farmers have a track record of success through research innovation to lead almost all Australian industries with average productivity growth of 2.8% per year for the past 30 years.
“But we’re now going backwards at the very time we need to be ramping up our research effort. Agricultural research intensity – or spending as a proportion of output – has fallen by over one-third in Australia since the mid-1980s. Successive Australian Governments have failed to embraced this challenge... the Rudd Government now has the opportunity to do so.
“At the same time, many developing nations are smashing us when it comes to research spending in agriculture. For them, food security isn’t an esoteric concept, it’s very real, expressed in life and death terms, and Australia can no longer take its privileged position for granted.
“Unless corrected, the next 30 years will see Australia less self-sufficient in feeding its own people and a much more expensive place to live. The government must refocus its gaze on positioning Australia as a leader to meet these mounting challenges.”
Mr Fargher’s full speech is available at: 21st century farming to meet 21st century needs.
NFF NATIONAL CONGRESS
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