Food will be Australia's next great export opportunity and economic reforms need to implemented now to reap the benefits of Asia's future demand for food, says Visy Industries executive chairman, Anthony Pratt.
The billionaire packaging and recycling magnate delivered his vision for Australia's agriculture sector at The Australian and The Wall Street Journal's inaugural Global Food Forum in Melbourne earlier this year
According to Pratt, there is the potential for Australia to quadruple its food exports to a value of $2 trillion and feed 200 million people in the process.
A US government-funded study released in April found that food production will need to rise by 60 percent by 2050 just to keep pace with expected global population increases and changing demands.
A major part of this increased demand will be from Asia where the middle class is forecast to grow from 500 million to three billion consumers over the coming decades.
Australia is ideally placed near Asia and, given demographic forecasts, will have almost 20 times more arable land per capita than China, India and Indonesia.
So, as Pratt sees it, expanding food production and increasing exports will be Australia's "greatest responsibility and opportunity in the 21st century."
He said that competition laws will need to be changed to allow consolidation among rural companies and also suggested suspension of payroll tax for food manufacturers and government incentives for innovation in agriculture.
Pratt contrasted the government assistance offered to the automotive and agricultural sectors; as well as the level of media and community concern devoted to each sector.
He said "The food industry decline has had a bigger impact than the close-down of car factories. The irony is that we have a competitive advantage in food manufacture. We don't have that competitive advantage in producing cars."