Launching a “Food and Agribusiness Roadmap” by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (Csiro), assistant minister for industry, innovation and science Craig Laundy said that innovation and entrepreneurship would drive new economic growth in the food industry.
Developed with widespread industry consultation and analysis, the roadmap centres on keeping a greater share of food processing business onshore and differentiating Australian food products from their competitors.
To do so, it calls on businesses to act quickly or risk losing future revenue streams to the competitive global market.
Csiro’s deputy director said that Australia is well placed to act as a “delicatessen” offering high-quality products that appeal to customers at home and abroad.
"Australian businesses are among the most innovative in the world, and together with our world-class scientists, can deliver growth in the food and agribusiness sector amid unprecedented global change," Martin Cole said.
"Less predictable growing conditions, increasingly global value chains and customers who demand healthier, more convenient and traceable foods are driving businesses to new ways of operating.
"Advances are already being made through the use of blockchain technology and the development of labels that change colour with temperature or time, or are programmed to release preservatives. This Roadmap will set us on the path to sustainable growth in the sector,” Dr Cole added.
The paper follows the publication of a “sector competitiveness plan” by Food Innovation Australia Limited (Fial).
The government-funded think tank’s report outlined an overarching industry vision to grow the share of Australian food in the global marketplace and the strategy needed to achieve it.
"With the growing Asian middle class, Australia is in the box seat to take advantage of the many emerging export opportunities," said Fial’s chairman, Peter Schutz.
"Consumers are looking for differentiated products that cater to their needs. This is especially exciting for Australian food and agribusinesses which have the capability to respond with customised and niche products."
Australia exports over A$40bn (US$34bn) of food and beverages each year, with 63% shipped to Asia. Much of the demand for these goods stems from the country’s reputation as a trusted and sustainable supplier of high-quality and healthy products, Dr Cole said.
"We must focus on these strengths and enhance the level of value-adding to our products.
"Recent Austrade analysis shows early signs of such a shift, as for the first time in Australia's history value-added foods have accounted for the majority of food export growth,” he added.
Csiro’s roadmap outlines value-adding opportunities for Australian products in key growth areas, including health and wellbeing, premium convenience foods and sustainability-driven products that reduce waste or use fewer resources.
It also calls for improved collaboration and knowledge sharing to generate scale, efficiency and agility across fast-changing value chains and markets.
"To survive and grow, the challenge facing Australia's 177,000 businesses in the food and agribusiness sector is to identify new products, services and business models that arise from the emerging needs of tomorrow's global customers," Dr Cole added.