03/10/2014 - 11:04

State looks to dining boom: Premier

03/10/2014 - 11:04

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Agricultural producers might need to think about the structure of the industry in order to take advantage of a once in a lifetime opportunity in the global food trade, Premier Colin Barnett has said while giving the 2014 Muresk lecture.

State looks to dining boom: Premier

Agricultural producers might need to think about the structure of the industry in order to take advantage of a once in a lifetime opportunity in the global food trade, Premier Colin Barnett has said while giving the 2014 Muresk lecture.

Substantial growth in Asia meant the global food supply was constrained by supply, rather than demand, and the substantial increases in incomes in China and India was already having an effect on consumption habits, he said.

“With higher incomes, consumers spend more and spend differently,” Mr Barnett said.

“Staple food commodities will benefit, but the new prize will be in areas of higher quality and greater diversity. 

“The shift toward a more western diet is already obvious and has been for some time. 

“I’m just not sure that we have taken full advantage of that.”

The prevalence of family farms was being challenged because the volatility in the sector took a personal toll on families, he said.

“A typical cropping program may range from $750,000 to $1.3million, which, if the crop fails, is enough to bankrupt the farm. 

“Little wonder there is heightened levels of stress and depression in rural areas. 

“For many it is a yearly rolling of the dice for a farm that may have been in the family for several generations.”

Investment sourced from large private, foreign and institutional investors and a more corporate structure for farms might leave them better placed to take on opportunities, as would improving the marketing of products.

“We can look across the Tasman and marvel at the market success of ‘100% Pure’ and products such as New Zealand lamb and the kiwifruit,” he said. 

“At home, Margaret River wine has a world brand. 

“I think Southern Forest Food has great potential and perhaps Kimberley beef will become a product in its own right. 

“Smart branding can improve market access and market price.”

The government was supporting the state’s $20 billion agriculture and food products industry with nearly $100 million of initiatives, including grains research and the recently announced northern beef futures program, he said.

“If we see this as just another ‘good time’ for farming then we will have failed.

“This is the opportunity to take agriculture to a new level and to provide greater financial security for farmers and to provide benefits for all West Australians.

“It’s a chance too good to miss,” the Premier said.

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