Agriculture must be top priority to support local demand, trade

WAFarmers has reiterated the importance of prioritising agriculture at the top in the lead-up to the Federal Election, stating that support and development on a local level would exponentially increase Australian trade opportunities.

“Agriculture must be marked as a national economic and policy priority in order to capture the value of opportunities driven by growing local and international demand for our premium produce,” WAFarmers President Tony York said.

“Now more than ever, Australian consumers are consciously searching for locally owned and produced foods and fibres at the supermarket, while demand on an international platform is increasing by the day, thanks to our status as a high-quality, safe, ethical and sustainable producer.

“We must continue to educate and encourage the Australian public to buy local and support our farmers.

“Additionally, given Australian farmers export approximately 60 per cent of what they grow and produce, we must capitalise on these current trends to develop future opportunities and expand the reach and breadth of Australian trade markets.”

Mr York said government policy support would be a good starting point in accelerating agriculture and aligning with Policy Priorities Four and Five of the WAFarmers election campaign.

“In anticipation of increased local and international demand, the government must both establish and support policies that enhance the growth of the agricultural sector, provide us with an even greater competitive advantage, and develop greater export opportunities,” he said.

“We need an Australian dollar that maximises export income for the agricultural sector and equitable interest rates for capital borrowings required for agricultural enterprise.”

In addition, Mr York said the nation’s robust foreign investment register needed to be both finalised and made public, and recognised that investors must adhere to Australian law.

“Australia is currently experiencing increasing interest from foreign investors, particularly from Asia – four of our five top agricultural trade destinations in 2014-2015 were Asian countries,” he explained.

“Foreign investments are an important source of capital for Australia, and we implore the incoming government to finalise and make public the foreign investment register so that it can be used to scrutinize and inform agricultural supply chain trends.

“Additionally, regulations must be put in place to ensure that proper processes are undertaken when evaluating whether to sell critical infrastructure to privately owned investors, and that investors are committed to adhering to Australian laws surrounding tax and competition.

In response to recent debate about the current level of Foreign Investment Review Board scrutiny, Mr York said that foreign investment was a sensitive issue, but that the stringent measures and screening thresholds currently in place should remain.

Mr York also explained that it was imperative that Free Trade Agreements between Australia and other countries include full and open access for our agricultural products, so that the success of the agricultural sector, and the Australian economy at large, could be secured.

“All these points would work towards re-establishing the competiveness and profitability of Australian agriculture, and capitalising on current and future trends in demand and trade,” he said.

ENDS.

All media requests must be directed to WAFarmers Media and Communications Officer Melanie Dunn on (08) 9486 2100 or [email protected].

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