We're not likely to be food bowl of Asia

We're not likely to be food bowl of Asia

Agribusiness
 Western Australia's chief scientist professor Peter Klinken said he did not believe Australia could become the "food bowl of Asia" because of arable land and water shortages.

Western Australia's chief scientist professor Peter Klinken said he did not believe Australia could become the "food bowl of Asia" because of arable land and water shortages.

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Australia is unlikely to become the often touted "food bowl of Asia" into the future.

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AUSTRALIA is unlikely to become the often touted "food bowl of Asia" into the future.

That was the view of WA's chief scientist professor Peter Klinken, an independent adviser to the State government on scientific matters, put to the Australian Association of Agricultural Consultants (AAAC) Outlook 2019 conference in Perth last week.

"Will Australia become the food bowl of Asia, I can't see it myself," professor Klinken said.

"I don't think we have enough arable land and enough water to be Asia's food bowl.

"We produce outstanding agricultural products and we have an international reputation for producing clean and green food.

"But our climate is changing - let's not pretend it is not - and water has become a serious issue."

Professor Klinken pointed out that only 5 per cent of WA's drinking water was now captured in dams from rainfall.

Desalination provided 60pc and 30pc came from aquifers, he pointed out.

"WA might be right at the heart of providing desal water for agriculture," he said.

Exponential global population growth forecasts would require a 70pc increase in food production, the United Nations predicted, a growth rate agriculture worldwide will struggle to achieve, professor Klinken said.

But industry, including agriculture, was in the middle of a digital information age and in the future farms will "look more like the mission control centre at NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration)", he said, with remote sensor monitoring of livestock, water points, machinery and many other farming activities.

"In the resources sector some of the mines sites are managed from 2000 kilometres away and that is the new reality for a lot of other industries," professor Klinken said.

But maintaining "social license" and developing a "culture of sustainability" would continue to be challenges for agriculture, he predicted.

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