Infrastructure a challenge to agriculture export future: report

Plans to expand agriculture as a major source of export income will hinge on road transport infrastructure

November 6, 2013

The future of Australia’s plans to expand agriculture as a major source of
export income will hinge on road transport infrastructure, an Australian Bureau of Agriculture and Resource Economics and Sciences (Abares)
study indicates.

The research report, Infrastructure and Australia’s food industry: Preliminary economic assessment, comes as national debate intensifies over policy setting to add the agriculture string to the country’s export bow, with much of the heat centred on land ownership.

But the authors of Infrastructure and Australia’s food industry: Preliminary economic assessment, make plain that transport infrastructure issues are central to the realisation of that promise.

"A key to realising potential growth opportunities is to ensure Australia’s infrastructure and biosecurity systems will support a growing food industry, moving food cost-effectively and efficiently to markets and supporting new export opportunities," they say.

At the same time, potentially significant expansion of production and exports of such key agricultural commodities as wheat, sugar, beef, sheep meat and dairy will increase pressure on the infrastructure that currently supports these supply chains.

"To make the most of opportunities presented by rapidly growing Asian markets, infrastructure that allows food to be moved cost-effectively and efficiently through supply chains will be important," the preliminary report finds.

"The road network is of particular importance to food supply chains and as production and exports expand, it will become increasingly important that issues affecting performance be addressed.

"These include connectivity across the road network and with other transport modes, road and rail pricing distortions, funding arrangements and the integration of planning and investment across modes

"The potential expansion of production in areas currently without adequate infrastructure presents additional challenges.

"For example, a significant expansion of beef production in northern Australia would need to be supported by large infrastructure investments.

"Similarly, to achieve substantial increases in dairy production it is likely that additional investment in irrigation infrastructure will be required, both on and off-farm."

The full report can be found here.

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