Words by David McKeon, CEO of GrainGrowers
The recent release of the Diversifying Australia’s Trade and Investment Profile parliamentary report was timely as we consider the Australian Government’s role in ensuring our quality agricultural products can be exported, particularly set against the events of 2020.
Australian grain growers have built a reputation for being reliable suppliers of high-quality grains within key markets, and when the weather is kind, we produce significant amounts of these quality grains. However, there are ever-changing headwinds and evolving barriers from foreign governments that are limiting our opportunities.
Continued investment in market development activities is key to driving the on-going success of Australia’s agricultural industry, particularly with an eye to the ambitious 2030 target of $100 billion at the farm gate, and $300 billion for the broader agribusiness sector.
The Government’s commitment to delivering agricultural trade and market access outcomes needs to increase. COVID-19 highlighted this requirement, as have other grain market disruptions. Investment needs to be forthcoming to strengthen existing alliances and to expand and accelerate new market development.
Australian growers need the Australian Government to expand its overseas network and help build stronger partnerships with industry to support the powerhouse that is the grains sector through targeted and timely market intelligence and proactive market development. Improved line of sight on joint government and industry priorities will enable growers to better manage international market risk and plan sowing rotations from an informed position.
I am sure the Australian public will also be supportive of the recommendation in the report that the Australian Government ensure there are adequate domestic supplies of key resources including fuel and medical supplies to lessen the impact of global supply chain disruptions in the event of a crisis. GrainGrowers strongly supports both state and federal governments designating grain farmers and associated suppliers as “essential services” in all relevant Acts to strengthen Australia’s ability to continue production of staple foods such as grain during periods of national crisis.
When pasta and flour flew off the shelves during each lockdown, many of our growers took to social media and newspapers to reassure their fellow Australians that they were getting on with the job of growing our clean and green grains. Ensuring our growers have the legislation in place to keep on doing their jobs during emergency situations is critical. Agriculture was designated a “reserved service” during the Second World War, and I am sure the public want government to continue to recognise the essential work our growers do! Farming needs the support mechanisms in place so tractors can move from paddock to paddock and the local mechanic can travel out if a repair is needed.
We hope to see the recommendations from the report implemented in a way that benefits the Australian grains industry and most importantly, our growers who work tirelessly so we can have the bread for our sandwiches, noodles for our Pad Thai and a solid Australian economy through our exports.