Home > Support builds for Forrest’s “Team Australia for Asia”

Support builds for Forrest’s “Team Australia for Asia”

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Support is building among business leaders and policymakers for Andrew Forrest’s push to elevate Australia as a secure food exporter to China and Asia, in the initiative the billionaire is calling the Australian Sino 100-year Agricultural Partnership.

Forrest said he had spoken to Chinese Premier Li Keqiang about the idea and wanted to unite the food industry in a “Team Australia” campaign to sell food to China, The Australianreports.

Anthony Pratt, executive chairman of packaging group Visy, welcomed the plan and stressed there needed to be a regional approach.

“I commend the Team Australia approach for food exports, which I’ve been proposing for two to three years,’’ Pratt said. “The focus should not just be China, but should also include Japan, India, Indonesia and Korea — we should fully leverage our imminent free trade agreements, which the Abbott government has shown such great leadership and execution in securing.’’

Federal Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce also backed Forrest’s plan. “We can have a symbiotic relationship with China in that they want a quality, premium product and we can provide it,” Joyce said. “If you want to create confusion, there’s no surer way than to have the NSW food forum and Queensland food forum and South Australian food forum, because you differentiate them in such a way that each is smaller than New Zealand. You have to band together under a national banner.”

Forrest wants to secure a high-level summit between policymakers and business leaders from China and Australia in the next two months, ahead of the G20 meeting in Brisbane in November. “I’m writing to major food producers, pulling us all together so that we have a Team Australia — Team Food Australia for Asia — coming together to give a united voice,” he said. “Not one state over another, one industry over another, one producer over another ... Team Australia coming together to finally get those supermarket shelves packed full of Australian produce.’’

Trade Minister Andrew Robb said the quest for food security was a huge opportunity for Australian agriculture, particularly if Chinese and other foreign capital could be channelled into big projects in northern Australia.

“It’s without a doubt the century of food and water security and we have vast tracts of largely undeveloped agricultural land in the north, and an enormous opportunity in the established areas with the application of more technology and better water management to collectively double the output from Australia,” Robb said. “What we don’t have, and they do have, is capital, and they also have growing demand.”

Australian Food and Grocery Council chief Gary Dawson said the Team Australia approach was desperately needed.

“The opportunity is real but it won’t be realised unless we lift our game,” Dawson said. “Twiggy (Mr Forrest) is right when he says Australian food is just not visible on Chinese supermarket shelves — and that’s backed by the trade stats showing our share of China’s food imports has halved over the past decade.

“Australia’s opportunity is to provide premium-priced, high quality food backed by some of the highest food safety standards in the world, to the growing cadre of wealthy consumers willing to pay a premium for it.”

Last month, Forrest bought Harvey Beef in a deal believed to be worth $40m.

Harvey beef is WA’s biggest beef exporter, and the only one accredited for exports to China.

Forrest pledged to invest in upgrading the abattoir which processes about 145,000 cattle per year and plans to open up live cattle exports to China.

Image: au.news.yahoo.com

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