Home' Smart Farmer : February 2012 Contents February 2012
MALLER producers will play
an increasingly important
role in agriculture as the
demand for niche products -- with
environmental and welfare-friend-
ly credentials -- continues to grow,
according to Australian Farm
Institute executive director Mick
But he says the Australian farm-
ing community has two major
challenges: trying to keep up with
expanding markets while meeting
increasing expectations and
requirements from consumers.
The institute was set up in 2003
to conduct research into strategic
issues facing Australian agricul-
ture and to promote the outcomes
to policymakers and the wider
"Farmers need to try and meet
all the expectations and require-
ments of increasingly fussy con-
sumers who want food with a
story and environmental credibili-
ty," he said.
Mr Keogh said smaller produc-
ers played an increasingly impor-
tant role in meeting that demand.
The huge popularity of farmers'
markets around the country high-
lighted the growing importance of
smallscale producers and the
demand for their products.
Mr Keogh was outlining the
main challenges facing Australian
farmers at an Agribusiness
Association of Australia meeting in
He said Australian primary pro-
ducers needed to
demands did not
impair their abili-
ty to compete on
the global market.
sector needed to
for its own future by engaging in
objective and credible policy
research, rather than relying on
governments and policymakers to
come up with the best solutions.
Mr Keogh said if the push for
food "with a story" went too far
and policymakers put too many
restrictions on farmers, it could
affect competitiveness globally.
"I see the real risk that we could
go down the same path as the
United Kingdom," he said.
"The story there was that
because consumers started to
express a desire for organic prod-
ucts, in effect regulations were
structured towards organic pro-
duction. That led to (more) regu-
lations over chemical use and GM
"This closes pro-
ducers into a very
and reduces com-
Costs in the UK
being put on
ket chain Tesco's
is putting carbon footprints on
different products," Mr Keogh
"But they don't pay for that car-
bon footprint. They just make it a
condition of sale and the producer
has to provide that certification."
At the same time, UK pork pro-
ducers were being forced into
more free-range production sys-
tems, while Danish imports of
conventionally produced goods
Mr Keogh said Australia was
also becoming more reliant on
"Our exports are growing, but
imports are increasing dramatical-
ly -- especially processed vegeta-
bles, canned vegetables and frozen
product," he said. But Australian
farmers were servicing a global
commodity market where price
"There's been a paradigm shift
in terms of supply and demand
and, because of that, I believe the
future is positive in terms of agri-
cultural profitability," Mr Keogh
"The reality is that Australia is
not a low-cost producer." Some
parts of the United States had farm
labour costs of only $7.80 an hour.
Another challenge was overcom-
ing the food wastage occurring
throughout the world.
"Figures show about 30 per cent
of the world's food is wasted," Mr
"This wastage happens in devel-
oping countries from issues with
post-harvest storage and transport.
In developed nations, the wastage
comes more from food's relative
Demand for small area farm
Risk of over-regulation
Imports flood Aust markets
Strategic ag opportunities
WHILE upbeat about the future for small area farmers, AFI executive director
Mick Keogh warns that policymakers are always too enthusiastic to regulate on
the whim of a 'good story'. And two SA politicians say urban sprawl and the
right-to-farm remain the biggest obstacles facing producers.
PAULA THOMPSON and LIZ COTTON report.
But they don't pay for
that carbon footprint.
They just make it a
condition of sale and
the producer has to
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