Australia and the ASEAN region are natural partners for cooperation on agriculture and food production, trade and investment, as well as the value-adding activities and supply chain supporting it.

What do both parties bring to the table?

Australia and ASEAN economies bring advantages to the table at different stages in the value chain, making them a natural fit.

Australia has the comparative advantages of:

  • world leading farming, regulatory and safety practices designed to support high yielding food production and “safe, clean and green” food
  • leading R&D capability and a culture of trialling new technology but
  • Australia has comparatively little understanding of ASEAN food preferences and of conducting business in ASEAN countries.

ASEAN economies have the comparative advantages of:

  • abundant water and a fertile natural environment for agriculture
  • a large population with a growing middle class looking for more affordable premium food opportunities, but
  • ASEAN economies typically use more traditional farming and food production practices which need to become more efficient.
  • To match these comparative advantages and improve the weaknesses, the Australian Government needs to continue to support programs delivered by organisations like Austrade, Export Council of Australia and Food Innovation Australia that:
  • support research of ASEAN food preferences (in addition to Chinese preferences) for Australian suppliers
  • build supply chain and export skills in ASEAN markets
  • match Australian suppliers and ASEAN distributors, and
  • work with ASEAN on the design of those programs.

Three ways to increase collaboration between Australia and ASEAN economies

1. Encourage exchanges between biosecurity, customs and food regulators in Australia and ASEAN

To support continuing efforts on trade liberalisation and consistency, Governments should explore opportunities for an exchange program for government officers working in biosecurity, customs and food regulation in order to transfer skills, build relationships and understanding and improve consistency.

2. Develop and fund collaborative agri-food research program focussed on tropical conditions farming and agriculture, greenhouse technology and fish farming

Consistent with the Australian Government’s efforts to further develop Northern Australia, establish a joint R&D program to encourage projects which are designed to improve food production and logistics practices, with particular focus on food grown in tropical conditions, fish farming and greenhouse technology. The collaborators must include at least one Australian commercial entity, one ASEAN commercial entity and a research institution.

3. Develop exchange programs between Australian and ASEAN farmers

These programs should have a focus on tropical conditions farming and agriculture, fish farming and greenhouse technology, to not only share skills but to build business relationships and a greater understanding of our respective capabilities.

To support collaboration, Governments need to implement more transparent, consistent and evidence based approaches to non-tariff trade measures and reduce the current parochial restrictions on agriculture investment. Food and agribusinesses need to build their trade skills, look to develop more internationally focussed supply chains and collaborate on R&D.