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Australia a key team player in improving global agricultural productivity



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Friday, 20 June 2014

Australia a key team player in improving global agricultural productivity

Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce has welcomed a gathering of Chief Agricultural Scientists from G20 countries across the world to a showcase of Australian food and fibre, as part of their conference being held in Brisbane on 19 and 20 June.

Minister Joyce saluted the agricultural science community that made such a vital contribution to the fundamental task of improving world food, feed and fibre production, through constant innovation and productivity growth.

Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce said Australia well understood that collaboration on innovation remained essential for global agricultural productivity growth into the future.

Minister Joyce expressed his concern that agricultural productivity growth in many OECD countries had been slowing - including in Australia.

“I understand that the central purpose of this expert gathering is to give real impetus to reviving agricultural productivity growth. This is something Australia will enthusiastically support,” Minister Joyce said.

“Improving agricultural productivity is fundamental to improving economic growth for many countries. It is a clear priority for this government in Australia.”

According to Minister Joyce, the Australian wheat story best exemplifies the productive advances we have made in agriculture.

“When Australia began recording wheat yields in 1833 we were producing around 0.8 tonnes per hectare. By 2011-12 this had more than doubled to as high as 2.2 tonnes per hectare,” Minister Joyce said.

“That period includes advances such as William Farrer’s development of the Federation strain in 1903, which enabled wheat to be grown in black soils, opening up vast tracts of arable land to crop production.

“Farrer’s new strain of wheat resulted in a trebling of Australia’s wheat harvest over 20 years.

“The greatest improvements in productivity occurred in the 1970s and 1980s through agronomy, reduced- and no-till techniques, and controlled traffic farming.

“More recently better crop nutrition and technological advancements—including precision agriculture and new crop varieties—are delivering more consistent quality, higher yields and better disease resistance.”

Minister Joyce said that agriculture was an especially effective path to improving incomes in developing countries - not just for farmers but for entire populations - and that Australia was committed to remaining a key team player in international collaboration in agricultural research and development.

“Australia has been a longstanding supporter of leading international agricultural organisations such as CGIAR, (formerly the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research), and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation,” Minister Joyce said.

Australia was also a strong supporter of some newer, less well known but very important organisations like the Global Crop Diversity Trust - the world’s super seed bank - of which former Australian Deputy Prime Minister Tim Fischer was Vice-Chair of the Executive Board.

“As part of our commitment to improving global agricultural productivity, the Coalition established the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) over three decades ago. ACIAR has completed over 1200 agricultural R&D projects in collaboration with over 60 developing countries in that time,” Minister Joyce said.

Minister Joyce said that research and development in Australia delivered strong benefits to the international community in the same way that Australian farmers stood to benefit from international R&D investments.

“Australia invests around $700 million per annum of combined levy funds and taxpayer funds in agricultural R&D. It has been calculated that for each $1 of this investment, Australian farmers generate $12 within 10 years, in terms of increased agricultural productivity,” Minister Joyce said.

“In addition to this, the so called ‘spill-over’ effects from international collaboration in agricultural R&D also make a significant contribution to Australia’s agricultural productivity growth.

“For example, over two-thirds of Australia’s broadacre productivity growth since the 1950s is attributable to R&D and extension, with over half of this coming from ‘spill-overs’ from our involvement in international R&D.

“International agricultural partnerships are vital to the future of the global community and Australia is honoured to have played host for this meeting, the outcomes of which will be significant for all of us.”

More information about the meeting can be found on the Department of Agriculture website: daff.gov.au/about/g20

Joyce media contact: Gerard McManus, 0477 391 580