INVESTMENT is essential for businesses in the agricultural sector to capitalise on Asia's growing food demand.
That was the message from Invest West Agribusiness Alliance chairman Rob Delane at the group's networking function in Perth last week when he was discussing the importance of foreign investors.
He said several projects and investments mentioned at the event offered WA real opportunity and said next year could see a ramp up of an even more unified effort to attract investment.
"Every successful business and job creation is very important in the West Australian and Australian economy," Mr Delane said.
The alliance, supported by the Department of Agriculture and Food WA (DAFWA), is a non-profit network of companies, peak industry organisations, government agencies and higher learning institutions aimed at fostering relationships to co-ordinate investment in WA.
More than 60 guests heard about agriculture foreign investment transactions and some recent lessons, Asia's capability and why it matters, and world-class aquaculture opportunity Project Sea Dragon, by Seafarms Group.
With a growing demand for food, Corrs Chambers Westgarth senior associate Nick Foster reflected on recent agriculture foreign investments, saying the Australian property system could be challenging for foreign investors.
He said pastoral leases, native title, water rights, mining rights and permits were issues most foreign investors had not come across and needed to be easily explained.
The other challenge was environmental and mining approvals "these are all alien to a foreign investor, so you really have to explain what they are and the process".
Mr Foster said providing estimated timelines on approvals and working with government agencies to assist was a benefit from a commercial aspect.
AsiaLink Business stakeholder relations manager Melissa Maguire said the group aimed to help Australian businesses connect with Asian opportunities in a more effective way.
"The rise of Asia is broadly acknowledged and that's not going to change," she said.
"The stats suggest that between now and 2030 the combined economies of Asia will be worth $67 trillion, greater than Europe and America combined.
"By 2022 the middle-class of Asia will be greater than the middle-classes of the rest of the world combined - so it is a significant opportunity.
"We have been engaging with Asia, very effectively for quite some time."
Ms Maguire said it was important to build relationships as trade moved away from commodities to services and high value-add products.
"Our view is to recognise the skills that are necessary to ensure our senior executives and our boards can in fact position their organisations to drive and renew profit-driven outcomes in the region," she said.
Ms Maguire said while speaking an Asian language was seen as useful, cultural intelligence was more important and more sufficient.
She said it was useful to understand cultural sensitivities such as business negotiations, relations and interactions.
"Language is useful but it isn't the whole picture," she said.
"How we interact and communicate can also be more effective."
Ms Maguire said it was important for organisations to have an Asian-focused strategy.
"Ensure you have a leadership team that is not just fly-in, fly-out but is engaged on the ground with that relationship and business," she said.
"Those successful businesses are the ones that have invested the time, energy and resources to build that relationship."