Australian agriculture keeps about 60 million people fed

THE Australian government's recently released Agricultural Competitiveness Green Paper is filled with compelling farming figures.

The most surprising one is that China already has four times more cattle than we have in Australia.

The paper also reports that while Australia produces only about 1% of the value of the world's agricultural output, our nation's agricultural productivity feeds about 60 million people - double the Australian population.

With this high level of export productivity and the cost of buying fresh food locally, you may wonder why farmers across the country don't all have at least one Rolls-Royce stashed in the shed.

The truth is that during the year 2000 only 10% of the retail value of agricultural production was being returned to the farm gate.

This was down from 50% in the 1950s and 85% in the early 1900s.

For exporting farmers, the high Australian dollar has also been keeping downward pressures on farm gate returns.

Job seekers may be interested in the green paper's forecast that older livestock and crop farmers are retiring at a rate that will create about 100,000 job openings in the industry by 2025.

On the Northern Rivers, 50% of agricultural business employees are 55 or older.

* KIMMAREE THOMPSON is the CEO of Regional Development Australia (Northern Rivers), a non-profit organisation funded by Federal and State governments as a catalyst for regional growth and innovation.



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