A new government report has defended foreign investment in prime Australian agricultural land, and argued that the only way forward for the country is to embrace the rising Asian middle class.
The green paper for the National Food Plan has forecasted a rise of almost 80 percent rise in demand for food by 2050 and believes Australia should embrace the opportunity.
The middle classes around the world will increase to almost 5 billion by 2050, 85 per cent of which will be in Asia.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced in May that Australia should gear towards becoming the ‘Asian foodbowl,” but farmers and agricultural experts slammed the suggestions, saying current regulation is hindering the industry rather than helping it.
There have also been calls for a public register of all investment in Australian farming land and companies, which were only spurred on by revelations in May that a company owned by the Chinese Communist Party wants to buy the entire Ord Expansion Development in the north of Australia.
But the government maintains that investment, foreign or otherwise, is crucial for Australia’s economy.
''Any reduction in foreign investment in the agricultural sector would likely result in lower food production with potentially higher food prices, lower employment, lower incomes in the sector and lower government revenue,'' the paper says.
The paper also acknowledges the confliction between farming and coal seam gas mining, and the importance of finding a compromise between them.
''The government is confident that mining and farming can co-exist without affecting Australia's food production capacity but recognises land use planning is a significant policy issue that must be considered carefully.''
It also suggests that a forum between the supermarkets and manufacturers needs to be established, to improve strained relationships cause by the supermarket duopoly.
And while the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) believes its Responsible Marketing to Children Initiative (RMCI) has been successful at reducing the number of advertisements for junk food directed at children, the report suggests these voluntary standards will have to be monitored by the government.
“The food industry is definitely part of the solution, particularly when you look at overweight and obesity, Cristel Leemhuis, Director, Preventative Health Policy Healthier Australia Commitment at the AFGC told the recent Food Magazine Leaders Summit.
“It’s not voluntarily, the consumer is demanding it.
“Consumers push these businesses, so they’re responding to that consumer demands.
“I’m a fan of minimum effective regulation if we do need it lets go down that track, but let’s see what we can do without the regulation to start with.
“Can we actually address the issue without regulation?
“That’s the path we should take first.
“If that doesn’t work then we should step into these other areas, but we really need to try this other area first before we just straight down to [regulation].”