'Not Asia's food bowl': Joyce

04 Aug, 2014 06:30 AM
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Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce. Photo: Katie McRobert
We've got to ­dispense with that rhetoric, it is ­ridiculous... it is read as a threat overseas
Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce. Photo: Katie McRobert

AUSTRALIA is not the food bowl of Asia, nor should it claim to be, says ­Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce.

He said our farmers now fed ­60 million people in Asia and while the ­potential existed to double that figure, there were four billion consumers in the region. "We're not going to be the food basket of Asia. We've got to ­dispense with that rhetoric, it is ­ridiculous. It is read as a threat ­overseas," he told Sky News on Sunday.

Mr Joyce said the smart money, ­citing recent investments in the ­industry by Gina Rinehart, Chris ­Corrigan and Andrew Forrest, was focused on developing a premium product for a premium price.

"Even in China, their beef herd is about eight times the size of ours.

"What we do have is a premium product and with the right supply chains, premium product gets a ­premium price. I'm saying it is a food bowl but it's not a food bowl that is going to be feeding Asia."

National Farmers' Federation ­president Brent Finlay said the ­minister's view was realistic.

"He's being a realist. When you look at the size of Asia, with four billion ­people, you can't pretend we're going to be the major supplier of food to Asia. In that context, his comments are right.

Trade minister Andrew Robb is an optimist, saying last week that while "we may not become the food bowl of Asia... we can become a key supplier, one of several food bowls, if you like"

Mr Finlay said: "We have a number of key markets around the world that we supply. We have very good customers and Indonesia is one of those, certainly Japan and Korea". He also said the free trade deal with China "has the potential to define ­agriculture in Australia for the next 20 years."

The Abbott government is due to release a green paper with strategies to boost the agricultural industry and take advantage of opportunities in the region within two weeks.

And Mr Joyce said there were ­significant opportunities to boost ­agriculture exports to south-east Asia.

He is studying the New Zealand 100% Pure brand campaign and has been talking to state ministers about ­bringing Australian produce under a similar umbrella brand.

"If we all go off as rats and mice here, there and everywhere, then we won't have a consistent approach," he said.

Mr Forrest said last week Australian agricultural business needed to market itself as one brand to be internationally competitive. The Fortescue chairman's Australia-Sino Hundred-Year ­Agricultural and Food Partnership met in Sydney last week and will meet again before the G20 summit in Brisbane.

- with AAP

AFR
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READER COMMENTS

Chick Olsson
4/08/2014 7:02:03 AM

Barnaby is correct. Talk of Aus being a food bowl is nonsense as water is scarce. Premium marketing is the key to our future prosperity.
John Niven
4/08/2014 8:17:42 AM

Well get rid of MLA and Co who are peddling this food bowl nonsense at producers expense.
GFA
4/08/2014 9:58:59 AM

Barnaby summed up our present situation well when he said, "If we all go off as rats and mice, here, there and everywhere, we wont have a consistent approach". Thank goodness we have an Ag Minister who can see and think clearly. That is our farming community to a tee. For some inexplicable reason, no Government or Farm Leadership Group have been prepared to attend to this glaring hole in our current strategy. We are perhaps even more like headless chooks than rats and mice. We stand by and watch NZ farmers uniting and muscling up along with foreign trading Corporations, yet not us. Why?
Philip Downie
4/08/2014 11:11:05 AM

Finally caught up this "food bowl" has been a joke since it started. Unfortunately we are all rats and mice and at least the vocal minority of farmers want it to stay that way because they think they are better and smarter (maybe they are) so Co-ops and old style AWB are out. Thus it is the middle men who make the money, not the farmer. As I said elsewhere if you don't control the product you can't control the brand.
Peter Comensoli
4/08/2014 11:33:01 AM

Joyce is only correct because he is applying current thinking to future problems. As soon as we pipe and channel monsoonal rivers to central a Southern soils we'll more-than feed Asia.
GFA
4/08/2014 12:57:05 PM

Peter C, you had your chance to get some action on the dams you talk about when you were CEO of NSW Farmers. Why do you now bag Barnaby for something you did nothing about?
VT
4/08/2014 1:42:08 PM

Peter, even if we grow enough food for 400 million we aren't even feeding 10% of the current Asian population. Quality not quantity is what is needed.
Inverell
4/08/2014 1:57:33 PM

Thank you Barnaby for again stating it like it is. It has never been actual farmers sprouting the garbage about the food bowl. It is always overpaid know nothings having their say in the media. I don't care about feeding Asia, I want to be able to make a profit to feed myself. This feeding Asia propaganda is always about increasing production to drive down prices and profits for farmers. I don't want to increase production, increasing prices and profits is always more sustainable for the future.
Chick Olsson
4/08/2014 3:42:25 PM

Well said Peter Comensoli. Bring on the brilliant Bradfield water scheme… it is the only future conversation we all need to have together.
Johnny woofl
4/08/2014 5:35:08 PM

If anyone has seen the huge black soil flats south of Normanton there exists a future Emerald development with the right planning and development. Starting with huge ring tanks and large private investments and Government help with roads etc this area could easily be developed into some thing huge,
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