The Federal Government is seeking bipartisan support for a review of Australia’s agriculture industry, as it aims to double the nation’s food production by 2050.
Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce says the Coalition, seeking to capitalise on growing world demand for food, will canvas options for strategic investment that boosts returns for local food producers.
Mr Joyce has invited submissions to a white paper on the agriculture industry due by the end of next year.
“If we design policy that brings a better return back to the farm gate, then those mum-and-dad families will have all the motivation in the world to increase production,” he said, adding that the amount of agricultural land being used for food production has been declining.
“By helping them, we also help ourselves, because we take our nation away from a purely boom-bust mining cycle.”
He says he has flagged the matter with the Opposition’s agriculture spokesman.
“It’s got to be a project that is for the benefit of the Australian people, and that’s why I’ve also had informal discussions with Joel Fitzgibbon to make sure that this thing, as much as we possibly can, is not a partisan document, but a document that we can all stand behind and delivers a better outcome for agriculture for our nation,” he said.
Mr Joyce says the Government has identified several areas where investment could be used to boost food production and investor returns, including the live cattle trade and transport infrastructure.
He cited a recent free trade deal with South Korea, yet to be formalised, as an example, along with investment in inland rail and dam construction.
“The free trade agreement into South Korea and, hopefully later on, into China and Japan, they [will] definitely return a better return to the farm gate,” he said, as would an investment in “such things as the inland rail, which connects the Port of Brisbane up to the Port of Melbourne… the construction of dams to expand water production, and having the investment packages in place so that we can raise the capital to construct those dams”.
Mr Joyce rejected the suggestion that the Government’s recent decision to block the foreign sale of GrainCorp to US agribusiness Archer Daniels Midland had threatened investment in infrastructure.
“The rejection of GrainCorp was the appropriate and correct decision, because that would have just led to a monopoly on the east coast which most certainly would have resulted in the exploitation of farmers and the reduction of prices they get at the farm gate,” he said.