New trends research predicts mega opportunities for Australian agriculture as world grows hungrier, wealthier with fussier consumers by 2035 14 Aug 2015

New research released today in Canberra from the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC) and CSIRO highlights five key megatrends that will significantly impact the future of Australian agriculture in the next 15 to 20 years. These megatrends are:

1. A hungrier world: by 2050, there will be 70 per cent or 2.3 to 2.4 billion more people on earth, who will need 60 to 70 per cent more food than what’s currently available.

2. A wealthier world: increasingly wealthier consumers in developing economies will drive demand for more and diverse foods. In Asia alone, with over 1 billion people expected to move out of poverty as average incomes rise from US$12,000 to US$44,000 per person by 2060, beef consumption is predicted to rise 120 per cent, while dairy consumption will double by 2050.

3. Fussier customers: empowered by information, the consumers of 2050 are likely to expect food to be nothing less than healthy, nutritional, clean, green and ethically produced. 

4. Transformative technologies: advanced digital, genetic and materials science technologies will enable farmers to improve how they produce food and fibre products, while innovative sensory systems and data analytics will create highly integrated ‘farm to fork’ supply chains. Farmers will be able to make better decisions and manage risk more effectively, while consumers will have greater access to trace the origins of their food, putting production methods under the spotlight.

5. Bumpier ride: Australian rural industries can expect a changed risk profile, which will call for new and deeper levels of resilience to withstand shocks associated with climate change, environmental change and globalisation. 

Through its National Rural Issues program, RIRDC, in partnership with CSIRO, undertook this ‘big-picture’ research to help Australia’s agricultural sector anticipate and proactively plan for change. It details the megatrends implications, opportunities and challenges for Australian farmers.

“Research of this scale and foresight is critical to ensuring Australia’s agricultural sector maintains and grows its vibrancy, sustainability and competitiveness,” said Craig Burns, RIRDC’s Managing Director. 

“While the projected increases in global demand for food could be perceived as an insurmountable challenge, our farmers, who supply 93 per cent of our domestic food needs and are highly export oriented, are renowned for their capacity to adapt, innovate, achieve productivity gains despite declining terms of trade, and respond strongly to risks. They are well-placed to address and capitalise on these megatrends.

“The research reinforces that the predicted wealthier and choosier Asian consumer of 2035 represents a key opportunity for Australian farmers to drive new markets in that region, underpinned by the need for ongoing research and development to ensure future farming systems improve productivity. However we need to be smart and be on the front foot as we are not the only one with our eyes on these opportunities.”

Stefan Hajkowicz, Principal Scientist in Strategy and Foresight at CSIRO, who co-led the research, agreed the megatrends insights pointed to a bright future for Australian agriculture.

“Overall conditions are set for strong demand growth in food and fibre products across Asia along with opportunities for diversification as diets within the region become increasingly westernised,” said Mr Hajkowicz. 

“The ‘where did my food come from?’ factor will be a big deal for future food consumers. Establishing provenance, quality and safety will allow us to fetch market premiums. And, there’s nothing low-tech about Australian agriculture. It is high tech and well placed to go super high tech.”

How can Australian agriculture become more competitive?

Complementing the megatrends insights, another area of research to be released today considers new tools to measure and influence Australian farm competitiveness in the global marketplace. 

Undertaken by the Australian Farm Institute, this research investigated the potential for the development of a competitiveness indicator or index as a decision-making tool to enhance agricultural competitiveness.  

While the research highlighted a number of limitations in developing such an index, including the lack of robust, internationally-comparable agriculture sector statistical data, it found that a ‘dashboard’ of indicators of national agricultural competitiveness could be achievable.

“A case study using the dashboard to compare the agricultural competitiveness of Australia and the USA illustrated that this tool provides a more useful approach, but only to the extent of providing a starting point for further analysis,” explained Mick Keogh, Executive Director of the Australian Farm Institute. 

“To progress this, the quality, consistency and availability of national and international agriculture sector data needs to improve.”

Download the megatrends infographic here

About the National Rural Issues program

The National Rural Issues program has been designed to inform and improve how policy is debated by Government and industry on national rural issues in Australia. Offering independent analysis and trusted insights, the program aims to generate robust research that relates to topical issues and that the reports have a lasting legacy. Each year, RIRDC will focus on five key projects under the National Rural Issues program which are non-industry specific and promote a productive and sustainable rural sector.