As the sun sets on the country’s mining investments, attention has turned to the next era of growth: food.
With the world population forecast to hit 8.3 billion by 2030, food security is an international issue. The Asia-Pacific region alone is tipped to hit 2 billion people, raising the question, “who is going to feed the bourgeoning middle class?”.
The answer could be “Australia”. However, food production, manufacturing and processing businesses need to act now to ensure they have the skills and capacity for tomorrow.
The international community’s role in the “Asian Century” was recently explored at the Global Food Forum. Regulators and policy makers from around the world travelled to Melbourne to discuss how demand, particularly from China, could reinvigorate manufacturing and food processing industries – and all eyes were on Australia.
Proclaiming Australia as a trading nation with enormous natural endowments, Minister for Resources and Energy Josh Frydenberg said, “by 2016-17, our farm exports are expected to reach $45 billion, up 23 per cent from 2011-12”.
“The dividend for investors willing to seize these opportunities cannot be overstated,” he added.
Mr Frydenberg acknowledged Australia’s high mango and banana output, and the trial introduction of new products including soya, beans, chia, dragon fruit, poppies, rice, onions and cotton. He also revealed future plans for Northern Australia to breed up to 100 million prawns per week, primarily for the Asian market.
Despite work needed to reduce red tape, expand new markets, and improve supply chains, it makes sense Australia should take advantage of Asia’s insatiable appetite. But while conversation has long been rooted in agriculture, it’s interesting to see debate swing towards food manufacturing and processing. Here, it is the supply chain businesses that are pinned to shine. Why? Because they control ‘sophisticated’ food products.
Managing Director at Labour Solutions Australia, Ed Hinschen, says this is where ‘brand Australia’ becomes important.
“Australia’s reputation of being clean, green and of high quality will become particularly suitable to the Asian market, which is already in the midst of heavy regulation,” he says.
“Australia is in this unique situation where it has incredible relevance to the Chinese consumer, who perceives Australian brands and products as incredibly safe and trustworthy.”
There is no clear consensus on what foods are best suited to take Australia into this new export future. However, many in the industry are hedging their bets on the large-scale exports of packaged foods – particularly baby food and organic food – along with dairy and meat. Beef, for example, has already surpassed its 2004-05 export level, while wheat is now Australia’s biggest food export – great news for big name FMCG companies including Goodman Fielder and GrainCorp Limited.
The emerging export economy will require a refreshed leadership mentality, where all parts of the supply chain – from process workers and machine operators, through to supervisors and WH&S – will play an important role.
If FMCG and food processing companies get their strategies right, Australia really could become the food bowl of Asia. To find out more about the Asian Century, and how your business can benefit from the export boom, get in touch with Labour Solutions Australia.