21/07/2015 - 15:49

Agriculture paper a first step: industry

21/07/2015 - 15:49

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Western Australia risks falling behind its competitors in agriculture and could miss out on making the most of opportunities in Asia, according to panelists at a Committee for Economic Development of Australia discussion on the industry today.

Agriculture paper a first step: industry
Sheep products are one of WA's biggest agricultural exports.

Western Australia risks falling behind its competitors in agriculture and could miss out on making the most of opportunities in Asia, according to panelists at a Committee for Economic Development of Australia discussion on the industry today.

Agricultural economist Ross Kingwell said although the rapid economic development of Asia's middle class would lead to increased demand for soft commodities, countries such as Ukraine would be fighting to grow their market share, too.

After enjoying strong total factor productivity growth in the 1990s, Australian agriculture has fallen behind those competitors, he said, with Ukraine in particular responsible for 60 per cent of new production on the global market in the past decade.

He said fiscal constraints would mean governments should concentrate on further trade agreements, building skills and competition in service provision, with an ultimate focus on building the industry’s value proposition overseas.

It might also mean governments would further embrace public private partnerships, Mr Kingwell said.

Agriculture Minister Ken Baston gave broad support for the federal government’s recent agriculture white paper, but said that it didn’t necessarily reflect the state’s needs as an export-driven producer.

“I would have liked the white paper to have a greater emphasis on the kind of changes that would help grow our existing markets in Asia and create new opportunities,” he said.

Mr Baston added that red tape reduction and infrastructure building would be two of the most effective ways government could help.

“An important consideration across all agribusiness is the imposition of unnecessary red tape,” he said.

“Solutions which allow businesses to develop and grow without unnecessary regulatory control are required.

“Ultimately, making it easier to do business will result in better outcomes than policies of market intervention or subsidy.”

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