Friday, 13 May 2016

Developing the future of agriculture in the north of Australia

Opportunities and challenges for the future development of agriculture in Northern Australian were discussed at the recent Northern Australian Food Futures Conference 2016. The conference, held in Darwin on 12-13 April, had a strong focus on agricultural investment in northern Australia and effective partnerships between the public and private sectors. The Food Futures Conference brought together a range of domestic and international participants from government, industry and farming groups and provided an ideal environment to learn lessons from past experience and discuss the future of agriculture in northern Australia. 

The two-day conference was a high profile event. It began with an address by Senator Matt Canavan, Federal Minister for Northern Australia, who spoke about the government’s investment in northern Australia and the importance of agricultural to the development of the area. 

Panel Session: A perspective from the top. L-R Matt Brann, ABC Country Hour (facilitator); The Hon Gary Higgins, Minister for Primary Industry and Fisheries (NT); The Hon Leanne Donaldson, Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries (QLD); The Hon Brendan Grylls, member for Pilbara (WA). Photo: ACIAR
The three northern Ministers – The Hon Gary Higgins, Minister for Primary Industry and Fisheries (NT), The Hon Leanne Donaldson, Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries (QLD) and The Hon Brendon Grylls, Member for Pilbara (WA) – were involved in an interesting panel discussion around their individual state approaches to northern agricultural as well as how all three states can work collaboratively with each other and the Federal Government to further develop the sector. Other State and Federal Members of Parliament were involved, including Senator Anne Rushton, in a range of panel discussions that highlighted both the opportunities and challenges of developing northern Australian agriculture.  

Topics covered on day one included: foreign investment rules and how to attract foreign investment into northern Australia; how to make new investments work on the ground; opportunities for northern Australian given its close proximity to Asia; and logistics and supply chains; and how best to move products to markets.

On day two, ACIAR’s General Manager Corporate, Mr David Shearer, participated in a panel discussion on the influence and impact on research to underpin development in northern Australia alongside Professor Simon Maddocks (Vice Chancellor, Charles Darwin University), John Wharton (Chair of the CRC for Northern Development) and Dr Wayne Hall (Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries). There is a strong interest in understanding what opportunities may be pursued by the CRC and how industry and the private sector could become involved in these opportunities. Both the state agencies and the university sector recognised the importance of the Australian agricultural research system engaging internationally to deliver the most effective impact for the development of Australia’s agriculture sector. These research partnerships, delivering effective international collaboration, not only bring benefit to the Australian agriculture sector, but support the development of export markets for Australian agriculture and food exporters and underpin the productive, profitable and sustainable development of the agriculture sector with many of our developing country partners in the Indo-Pacific region. 

Agricultural research has not only been a key contributor to underpinning the Australian agriculture sector, but it has also delivered significant benefit as part of our broader aid program, and it is critical that Australia’s research capacity remains engaged internationally.   
By Laura Carew, Communications and Stakeholder Engagement, ACIAR

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