Exectuive chairman of Visy, Anthony Pratt, says the government needs to shift its focus away from keeping the automotive manufacturing industry afloat and turn its attention to food.
Pratt was visiting Visy's paper mill in Tumut when he described the subsidies the government is handing out to car makers as misguided."We think food is a natural fit for Australia, unlike the car industry," he said.
According to the AFR, Pratt said Australia's food safety expertise and our close proximity to Asia gives the food industry a competitive advantage over other markets.
He said Australia can quadruple its food exports to Asia and with the support of the right government and strategies can become a food "superpower" for the region.
But Australian manufacturers must keep costs low and develop innovative new products if they're to survive the tough times Australian manufacturers are currently experiencing, he said.
"There will be a few casualties – those that don’t keep their costs under control. I think it’s incumbent on all companies to continue to reinvest in their businesses in order to be as low as possible on the cost curve," he said.
This isn't the first time Pratt has spoken of the need for Australia to capitalise on its food growing and manufacturing potential. At the Australian and The Wall Street Journal's inaugural Global Food Forum in April he referred to expanding food production and increasing exports as 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.