Aussie farm woes could spell higher exported food prices

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SYDNEY – As Australia appears to match Asia’s growing demand for food, it has run into a fresh issue – a looming lack of farm workers that could stymie creation and increase costs for consumers in nations for example Singapore.

Australia has a rare chance to be a superior food “superpower” as the Asian century grows, Trade Minister Craig Emerson said at the annual Agricultural Outlook Conference in Canberra earlier this month.

While dairy trade will grow by A $ 60 billion, and cereals by more than A $ 50 billion Asian vegetable and fruit imports will even grow by almost A $ 150 billion, said the report.

Singapore is one of the importers of cheeses, seafood and Australian fruit and purchases lots of steak and dairy products from Australia.

The largest importers of Australian food products are The European Union, China, Indonesia and South Korea.

Australia is set to create an additional A$1.7 trillion over the next 30 years as it seeks to ramp up food production.

But Australian farming has come to a standstill in late times, with volumes of wheat and steak stalling.

The state’s farmers are becoming old happy wheels and are occasionally hesitant to put money into new techniques. Meanwhile, fewer students are studying agricultural sciences and research on farming has fallen.

About one in four farmers is aged 65 years or older.

Farm exports accounted for 12% of the state’s overall trade whilst the food supply chain hired 15% of the work force.

However, Abares warned that there needs to be additional capital on research and greater foreign investment, as it prepares for the new wave of demand from Asia. The report, analyzing international food production to 2050, warned that productivity growth must come from on farm innovation and advances in plant and animal genetics, and technologies that enable better farm management and increase power as well as water efficiency.

The state’s top farmer’s body, the National Farmers Federation, considers that Australian farmers will remain on the land but the chief challenge is really in enhancing research to improve production.

“We are restricted by our environmental conditions. You can’t make it rain more than it does.”

“The Asian century will provide opportunities but to fulfill them, we must enhance production,” the federation’s president, Mr Jock Laurie, said.

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