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n coming years, the world’s population
is set to dramatically increase. By 2050,
the current population of seven billion is
projected to expand to more than nine
billion—an increase of two billion people in
less than 40 years.
While there are many uncertainties in
global trends affecting Australia’s future, we can
be certain that there will be more mouths to
feed, leading to an increased demand for food
At present, Australian farmers export
approximately 60% of what they produce,
contributing significantly to the food and fibre
As the world population grows and the
market changes to reflect this, it is appropriate
for Australia to seek to understand these trends
and develop strategies to address them in the
best interests of not only Australian consumers,
but also Australian farmers.
That must include strategies to help Australian
farmers better use their valuable resources—
land, water and labour—to grow more food and
fibre to help feed the growing world population.
Farmers already grow more food on less
land than at any time in the world’s history.
But for farmers to continue to produce more
with less, increased investment in innovation,
research, development and extension (RD&E) in
agriculture is crucial.
This is reflected in the Blueprint for Australian
Agriculture, which was developed with the input
of almost 4,000 farmers, transporters, retailers,
consultants, rural businesses, agribusinesses,
educators, governments, rural communities,
community groups and consumers and was
led by the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF). It
identified innovation and RD&E as a key priority
for the agricultural sector to ensure it is able to
meet future challenges and food demand.
The timing on this is critical. There has been
little real growth in public investment in the
RD&E needed to drive innovation in the sector
since the 1970s and now Australia’s agricultural
sector is feeling the impact.
That is why the NFF has called for an
increase in total national expenditure in
agricultural RD&E, including both public and
private investment, of 1% by 2015—an increase
of $281 million over the next two years—and
we have welcomed recent policy commitments
that go some way to achieving this.
A role for AciAr
ACIAR’s work in international RD&E contributes
significantly to Australia’s international
aid priorities, helping to develop more
sustainable agriculture systems specifically
for developing countries in the five regions
covered by its mandate.
Providing training and greater information
and development opportunities for farmers
in developing countries can have important
flow-on effects for both the international and
Australian agriculture sectors.
Assisting with agricultural development in
developing countries helps boost the economies
of these nations, lifting many people in rural
areas out of poverty, and can at the same time
provide potential positive benefits for Australian
exporters in the long term.
Key to the continuing success of ACIAR is
ensuring that a balance is achieved between
investing in international RD&E and working with
Australia’s domestic agricultural RD&E system.
While Australian farmers generally support
ongoing investment in improving sustainable
agricultural production in developing countries,
the challenge for the Australian Government
and agricultural community is to maximise
opportunities and realise dual benefits for both
developing countries and Australian primary
producers from this investment.
The research undertaken by ACIAR in
developing countries does provide benefits to
Australia through capacity building for Australian
researchers and scientists, access to broader
information and research on pests and weeds
that could affect Australian agriculture, the ability
to learn from agricultural practices in other
countries, and even direct economic benefits.
For example, an ACIAR-funded project was run
from 1990 to 1995 titled ‘Development of heat-
treatment systems for quarantine disinfestation
in tropical fruit’, which sought to develop heat-
based fruit fly disinfestation treatments for fruit
and vegetables. In turn, this built capacity for such
produce to meet the strict quarantine restrictions
of several South-East Asian export markets.
One particularly lucrative market that was
effectively barred to Australian exporters due
to quarantine regulations was the Japanese
The ACIAR research project linked the
Queensland Department of Primary Industries
with various agencies in Thailand and the
Philippines to develop mango-disinfestation
treatment schedules that worked with rigorous
As part of the project, market access for
Australian mangoes into Japan was negotiated
for the season of 1994–95 and continued to
remain in place. Subsequently, mango trade
with Japan continued to steadily increase, with
the total gross benefit of the project to Australia
estimated at $4.4 million.
from AustrAliA to the world:
Growing our knowledge
and the world’s farmers
The vital importance of increased investment in agricultural research,
development and extension to both Australia and the world is discussed by
Matt Linnegar, chief executive officer of the National Farmers’ Federation,
Australia’s peak body representing farmers and the agricultural sector.
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