Tuesday, 21 October 2014

ACIAR benefits Australian farmers

At ACIAR, we broker research partnerships between Australia and developing countries. These partnerships deliver benefits not only to the developing countries where we work, but also to Australia  such as strengthened biosecurity, access to germplasm for improved crop varieties, and capacity building for farmers and researchers alike.

As a sponsor of the 2014 National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) Congress, Nick Austin, CEO of ACIAR, welcomed the opportunity to talk to delegates about ACIAR.

It is sometimes commented that ACIAR is better known overseas than in Australia, so the opportunity to sponsor the congress is one step towards raising our profile domestically,” he said.

Day one of the Congress was also first day on the job for NFF CEO, Simon Talbot. Congratulating Simon on his recent appointment, Nick said he is looking forward to continuing a close working relationship under his stewardship.

ACIAR CEO Nick Austin and NFF CEO Simon Talbot (Photo: ACIAR)
Addressing the NFF congress at large, Nick reviewed ACIAR's role as part of Australia’s aid program, which has six core priority areas, including agriculture.

"ACIAR ’s mission is to increase the productivity and sustainability of agriculture for the benefit  of developing countries and Australia."

Benefits for Australia from ACIAR's partnerships:

Nick's address highlighted that one of the most important benefits to Australia revolves around biosecurity. Work with our counterparts in Indonesia, for example, on a national surveillance system for early detection of foot-and-mouth disease is extremely important. Keeping Indonesia free of the disease reduces the risk of the disease entering Australia.

Our work with mite pests of honey bees allowed better focusing of quarantine efforts, lowering the probability of destructive mites entering Australia.

Incidentally, the Minister for Agriculture, The Hon. Barnaby Joyce said at the Congress, “Make sure we keep biosecurity strong, otherwise we won’t have a honey industry”.

Keeping mite pests of honey bees out of Australia is essential for healthy honey and horticultural industries. (Photo: Saul Cunningham, CSIRO)

Nick talked about ACIAR’s work with biocontrol of banana skipper butterfly in Papua New Guinea. Here, the butterfly was controlled by a small parasitic wasp. Without biocontrol, the butterfly could have crossed Torres Strait into Australia, causing hundreds of millions of dollars in losses to Australia’s banana industry.

Improved plant genetic material, though ACIAR’s investment in the International Agricultural Research Centres, helps keep Australian farmers competitive in world markets.
There are many examples where internationally sourced genetic plant material has been adapted to Australian conditions. Mung beans grown across much of northern Australia derive from the World Vegetable Center’s breeding program. Improved chickpea varieties from ICRISAT in India; disease-resistant barley from ICARDA in Syria; high-yield, semi-dwarf wheat varieties from CIMMYT in Mexico—these are all grown in Australia.

In closing, Nick noted that ACIAR's international relationships provide opportunities for Australia to be part of the global network sustaining agricultural innovation. ACIAR  is a small player but will strive to deliver for farmers in Australia and overseas.

By Georgina Hickey, ACIAR

National Farmers’ Federation 2014 National Congress

Partners Magazine November 2013—issue on ACIAR in Australia
ACIAR Impact Assessment Series Report No. 39—Benefits to Australia from ACIAR-funded research

Doing well by doing good – Crawford Fund Task Force 2013
Australia’s aid program

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