John Lloyd, Agribusiness Australia, Editorial, 15 March 2021
This is not a critique of the National Farmers Federation’s laudable $100 billion aspiration.
Agribusiness Australia’s own ambition is built on continuity with the NFF platform, and also to ensure it becomes reality.
But it’s just a matter of seeing trend against target.
Our sector has had a very good year with a big bump pushing us to probably $60+ billion at farmgate in 2021.
But under business-as-usual to 2030, the best projected farmgate result is $85 billion.
It is generally accepted that $1 at farmgate turns off another $2 in economic activity, meaning by 2030 we’ll be $15 billion short at farmgate and $30 billion post-farmgate.
The gap is an eye-watering $45 billion – if not more.
If we don’t cover the gap, it will be to every Australians’ detriment.
What’s missing is a national strategy for agribusiness.
Over 12 months of pandemic the Australian Federation has proved itself robust and highly effective.
The National Cabinet model has shown successful national policy is possible; that individual State and Territory nuance can be accommodated – and vice-versa.
We’ve seen policy-making built on evidence, and science driving decisions too important to be left to politics.
The experience of COVID is that a consortium of like-minded organisations and interested parties could be enrolled to develop and lead a strategy to deliver that $300 billion target and, in doing so, build out a progressive, prosperous and more diverse regional Australia.
The strategy needs to make big calls: take risks, identify industries capable of rapid and significant expansion, and support those with greatest likelihood of success.
The strategy must motivate private capital into Australian agribusiness, and attract businesses with big balance sheets into the sector.
Policy settings should reflect this strategy.
Growth must first contribute to the national accounts, but it should also be accountable to ESG measures.
The national strategy must deliver against a framework that accounts for environmental sustainability, societal gains in regional Australia, and robust governance that ties action to ambition.
How long would it take to build the strategy?
Maybe too long, because by this time next year, it’s less than eight years to 2030.
We could start today.