AGRICULTURE is not dying.
That was the message from University of Western Australia (UWA) Hackett Professor of Agriculture chairman and director Kadambot Siddique at last week's Ensuring Australian and Global Food Security panel discussion hosted by the Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA).
In fact, Mr Siddique believed for far too long the general public had been misled by the mainstream media to believe Australia's agricultural industry had little worth.
It was only a few short decades ago that agriculture was considered the driving force of Australia.
But since then the industry had slowly become overshadowed by the mining boom.
"We're often told by the media that agricultural commodities only represent 1.32 per cent of the country's gross domestic product (GDP)," Mr Siddique said.
"That is wrong."
He said each year the Australian farm sector, which comprised of 136,000 farms and an extensive supply chain of processors, handlers and suppliers, generated more than $406 billion or 27pc of the country's GDP.
"That's a $32.5 billion impact from exports and accounts for about 1.68 million Australian jobs," Mr Siddique said.
"Australia ranks fourth in the world behind Brazil, Argentina and Netherlands as an exporter of agricultural products.
"The country exports 70-80pc of the industry's output, helping to meet the food requirements of Australia's 22.8m people plus another 40m overseas."
He said one Australian farmer produced enough food to feed about 600 people - 150 in Australia and 450 through international exports.
But it was the public's unawareness of Australia's ability to indirectly feed between 400 and 500 million people in developing countries through capacity building, which Mr Siddique was largely concerned about.
"In 1901 the Australian population was 3.7m of which 14pc farmed land," he said.
"This year the Australian population is 22.8m and less than 3 per cent of the population is involved in farming."
He highlighted Australia's position as the second largest producer of beef in the world and noted the industry bought $7.27b to the country's economy.
Australia was also home to eight per cent of the world's sheep production, worth $2.3b.
In looking at the agricultural industry's net worth Mr Siddique said Australia was also the fourth largest exporter of wheat in the world.
"Average wheat yields are 30pc higher than they were 30 years ago," he said.
"Australian wheat accounts for three per cent of the world's production and 18pc of the world wheat trade.
"Farmers are the stewards of 61pc of Australia's land.
"And as Australia's population stretches towards the 35 million mark I believe we do have the capacity to help feed the rest of the world."
CEDA predicted agricultural products accounted for 13.8pc of total Australian exports, which was two thirds of the country's agricultural production.
With the global population predicted to reach nine billion by 2050 it said the world's farmers would need to increase their current production by 70pc to meet future global food demands.
But Mr Siddique was also well aware of the challenges faced by the industry including its ability to meet projected energy demands, manage greenhouse gas emissions, adapt to climate change and variability, preserve natural ecosystems and biodiversity and maintain global security.
"Producing enough food for the world in 2050 will be easy if we cultivate large areas of extra land," he said.
"The real challenge is to expand agricultural outputs without increasing the amount of land used while minimising the inputs."