AUSTRALIAN and Chinese officials have agreed to work more closely to boost investment and research in agriculture in northern Australia.
Trade Minister Craig Emerson released a report, Feeding the Future, which involved input from the government and private sector in Australia and China.
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The report recommended that the federal, Queensland, Northern Territory and West Australian governments hold a joint forum with Chinese provincial leaders in Cairns in early 2013 to explore better cooperation and investment.
It said both countries should encourage new entrants to the agribusiness markets, foreign investment should be made more transparent, and that investors should first consider suitably skilled Australian workers before seeking to bring in workers from overseas.
It also called on federal, state and territory governments to identify a number of pilot projects, alongside Chinese researchers and investors, to develop irrigated broadacre cropping.
The study said a joint Australia-China research facility should be set up to examine commercialisation of new technology.
Dr Emerson said northern Queensland, WA and the NT, as well as the Chinese areas of Shanghai Municipality, Shandong, Anhui and Shaanxi provinces would be the initial areas of investment cooperation.
The types of activities to be initially examined would include large-scale agricultural water and soil resources development, beef and sheep meat product processing, aquaculture and logistics.
Dr Emerson said the study was not about China "buying up the farm" or farmers exclusively producing exports for China, or the import of cheap Chinese labour.
"At a time when many rural communities are struggling, this cooperation will provide employment, drive technological advances and boost prosperity in rural Australia," he told reporters in Canberra.
He said there would be two billion more mouths to feed globally by 2050 and Australia and China were well-placed to tackle this task which had humanitarian, political and economic benefits.
Regional Australia Minister Simon Crean, who will chair the Cairns forum, spoke with Chinese officials about the report recently during a seven-day visit to mark the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations.