Time for tough choices: McGauchie

13 Nov, 2014 11:15 AM
Don McGauchie.
I don't think we can afford another lost decade of excuses
Don McGauchie.

Follow the live updates from the F20 (Food) Summit here

AUSTRALIAN agriculture has to make some difficult choices if it is to be part of the fast changing food global market, says agribusiness boss Donald McGauchie, including whether the industry gains any real benefit from government spending on drought aid to farmers.

The Nufarm and Australian Agricultural Company chairman told the inaugural Rabobank F20 (Food) Summit in Sydney this morning he has strong doubts about whether the $4.5 billion spent on drought relief between 2001 and 2012 was money well spent, when so much rural infrastructure, research and market development spending has been lacking in the past decade.

He questioned if Australia had a more productive or cost-effective

farm sector or more trade access to the booming Asian marketplace after spending much of the taxpayers dollars on drought help.

While acknowledging drought funding had provided important help to people at a critical time, he said Australia had to start making some tough decisions to succeed.

"We have to adjust for the future, not defend the past," he told about 660 farmers, industry and government delegates from across the continent and overseas attending the big food security solutions event.

"We have had a lot to deal with in the past 10 years... but I don't think we can afford another lost decade of excuses," Mr McGauchie said.

He said farmers couldn't ask others to do more to ensure Australia was a key supplier to the booming food markets overseas, without taking some tough decisions themselves.

Meanwhile governments also had to wake up to the alarming decline in public spending on agricultural research and recognise farm productivity had been declining because Australia had "dropped the ball on R and D".

"Let me tell you this is a great concern," he said, noting Australia needed to increase farm productivity by 2.5 per cent annually to double our farm sector output by 2050.

Asia's mega middle class would have a population four times the size of the US and Europe he told the summit.

A host of international and local farm sector speakers have joined the F20 forum to contribute their experiences and ideas about how the world will need to deal with the food security issue as arable land and farmer numbers shrink.

Rabobank executive board member Berry Marttin said global food

production needed to double by 2050 - but the world would have just 0.5 hectares of arable land to feed each person on the planet by then, compared with 1.2ha in the 1960s.

He said much could be done to improve global food use efficiency if the western world stopped throwing away up to 40pc of what consumers bought at supermarkets.

Rural science commentator Julian Cribb believed major gains in food and energy production would be achieved by farming algae and plans for massive greenhouses in major cities.

Andrew Marshall

Andrew Marshall

is the national agribusiness writer for Fairfax Agricultural Media
Date: Newest first | Oldest first


13/11/2014 7:09:18 PM

The cult of the 'Celebrity Chef' has a lot to answer for. In most wealthy Western societies there has developed an anticipation of fancy and fresh food. It is not so long ago that the preservation of produce was the specialty of the regions where it's seasonal availability was prolific. Preserved fruits, jams, dried meats, pickled vegetables, (pickled eggs even) and a whole host of other life extending methods were the norm. While ever food is marketed and embraced as a fresh food experience rather than sensible use of a perishable commodity we will continue to waste 40% and some.
Jock Munro
13/11/2014 7:34:31 PM

Perhaps more farmers should follow Donald McGauchie's lead and get into the corporate world. Belonging to the corporate club, where members vote each other into the nation's boardrooms, is far more lucrative than farming and a whole lot easier.
Bushie Bill
14/11/2014 5:59:25 AM

I wonder if chops and dear old highly predictable Jock understand that the purpose of posting to an article is to make a relevant comment on the article? That would be easy for most people but seemingly impossible for those with impervious views and those with single agendas. Suggest you both actually read the articles and post only if you have considered relevant views.
Philip Downie
14/11/2014 9:46:55 AM

Your relevant views on the article are BB? You posts are aimed at vilifying other posts, nothing of actual intellectual value.
Pete Rothwell
14/11/2014 10:08:54 AM

It seems to me that they just want farmers to increase production to keep the cost of food at its present level. The entire challenge of meeting future food requirements is pretty simple, let the supply and demand situation start favouring the demand side, as a result we should see higher commodity prices. I think you wold be amazed at how much more farmers could produce if prices were higher allowing them to invest in the properties. I keep reading we need capital investment from overseas, we just need investment and that would come from within with higher commodity prices.
Bushie Bill
14/11/2014 11:41:59 AM

Just trying to improve the abysmal qualitity of posts Phil old son.
14/11/2014 2:28:19 PM

When are you going to improve your abysmal quality of spelling and punctuation, Bellevue Bill?
14/11/2014 7:54:00 PM

Well said Pete Higher demand will lead to higher prices will lead to higher production, all else is irrelevant. Until prices rise, production will remain static.
15/11/2014 6:49:34 AM

It is a time of great excitement for agriculture. The required output to meet growing global demands for grains and oil seeds will struggle to keep pace as credit constraints, regional political meltdowns in grain export producing regions, and a likely period of rising costs for herbicides and fertilizers as manufacturers of these products go through their own profitability challenges. So if you have a strong farming business, Australia is a good place to be farming into the future. Investment is now looking for the strong producers in the world.
Very Woolly Thinking
15/11/2014 12:04:24 PM

Thanks heavens there are still some rational people like Mr McGauchie left in agriculture. The facts have shown that since the 90's labour productivity has grown consistently while capital productivity has sunk like a stone. So the people who are letting down Ag are not workers (or IR laws) but those running RDC's, Ag businesses and farms, who are failing to invest in new technologies and management practices. Look at AWI as a perfect example. They cut R&D funding to allow more money to advertise pretty women in red dresses.
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