The president of Australia’s national farmer’s federation (NFF), Fiona Simson, was in Dublin this week as part of a series of visits to EU countries.
She is holding meetings with farm organisations across the EU and will meet Copa Cogeca, the umbrella body for EU farm organisations. In Ireland, she also held talks with the IFA.
When the IFJ enquired about the purpose of her visit to Ireland, she explained that it was NFF’s view that farmers from across the world face many challenges in common and that it was important to share knowledge and learn from each other.
The big issue for farmers in Australia at present is profitability, or “making a dollar” as she described it, and “having community trust”, which is communication with people to help understanding of how farming fits with the environment and how it is a good thing.
While weather has been a major issue in Ireland for the past year, drought is a regular feature of Australian farming with parts of the eastern seaboard of Australia being in drought for seven years at this stage.
It has impacted severely on livestock and grain production though the loss of grain production was offset somewhat by Western Australia being able to meet the shortfall, she explained.
Road map 2030
In terms of where Australian agriculture was, the NFF President referred to their recently published Roadmap 2030.
This is not dissimilar to our Food Harvest 2020 or Food Wise 2025 plans and it has an ambition to grow the value of Australian agriculture from the A$65bn that it is today to A$100bn by 2030.
The equivalent in euro would be increasing from €42bn to €65bn. Like Ireland, Australia is a large net exporter of agricultural produce, with 70% of its output exported.
That means their exports would grow from the equivalent of €32bn at present to €45bn by 2030. By way of comparison, Irish food exports in 2016 were €12.5bn, including drinks.
The IFJ put it to the NFF president that they would have to grow their export markets to accommodate this expansion and was that why they were engaged with the EU on negotiation of a free trade agreement (FTA).
She replied that Australia was talking to the EU and the UK and was of the view that a FTA could bring wins for all.
Prior to the UK joining the then EEC in 1973, it was Australia’s only export market of any significance for agricultural produce. This was lost at a stroke and since then Australia has developed export markets in Asia which is now their local market as well as North America and some sales to the EU which they have the ambition of increasing.
The NFF President did acknowledge that trade was a a two-way process and they were prepared to open their doors to imports also and as well as referencing well-known Irish drink brands that were popular in Australia, she also mentioned that they were a buyer of Irish dairy and pigmeat products already.