AGRICULTURE could be the next sector to boom on the back of Asian-led food demand.
With the right leadership, domestic and foreign capital and a boost to the image of farming, Australia and New Zealand could more than double farm exports by 2050, according to a landmark study launched last week.
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The report by Port Jackson Partners director Angus Taylor showed this rise could add an extra $710 billion to Australia's exports.
This comes as new figures show Victorian farm exports continue to break records, increasing by $1 billion last financial year.
Food and fibre exports out of Victorian ports were worth almost $9 billion - an 11 per cent rise on 2010-11- according to a Government report released this week.
Agriculture Minister Peter Walsh described it as a "significant achievement" for producers, and Victorian Farmers Federation president Peter Tuohey said the figures were "a great result".
Dairy and grain continued to lead the commodities as the top exported products by value.
A total of $1.9 billion worth of dairy products was exported, which was steady on the previous year, and grain exports rose 61 per cent to more than $1.8 billion.
At $1.86 billion, China was the top destination for food and fibre exports, followed by Japan ($816 million) and New Zealand ($484 million).
But the ANZ report said much work was needed for Australia to continue with this export success and capture more extraordinary future opportunities.
Mr Taylor said the industry, which had slipped in productivity, growth and profitability, must now unite to rejuvenate itself.
Strong leadership was crucial to drive towards common goals and capitalise on market opportunities in Asia that some in the farm sector had grown weary of hearing about, he said.
New farm business models - such as equity partnerships - should also be encouraged to allow family businesses to grow.
Mr Taylor said a large amount of capital, some of which may come from foreign investors, was needed to drive growth and that succession planning, driven by debt, was taking equity out of family businesses.
But foreign investment must be scrutinised so that unlevel playing fields were not created, and foreigners must be prevented from monopolising infrastructure assets and market gateways, Mr Taylor said.
But National Senator Barnaby Joyce hit out at the report, saying it was "theoretical" rhetoric and stabbed at the heart of Australia's identity.
He said a push to corporate farming driven by foreign investment, instead of creating government policies that championed family farming, was "not in the national interest".
But Mr Taylor told The Weekly Times his report did not advocate unchecked foreign investment, or the end of family farming. "I don't think Barnaby has actually read the report," he said.
Senator Joyce said Australia should investigate how "government policies alleviate problems (such as red tape), not how to get people off family farms".
"I believe owning your own farm is the same as the seminal desire to own your own home," he said.
Meanwhile, National Farmers' Federation president Jock Laurie said the report showed agriculture had enormous potential but needed policies to enable growth.
Early findings of the Blueprint for Australian Agriculture, released at the NFF conference yesterday, reinforced issues identified by the report.