Food and grocery sector booms amid the gloom

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 28th September 2009

A new report highlighting that Australia’s food and grocery industry continues to grow despite the global financial crisis has been welcomed by the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC).

Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Tony Burke released the findings on Friday in the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry’s Australian Food Statistics 2008 report.

The report showed the industry supported 14,000 new jobs in 2007-08, with the strongest long-term growth in regional areas. Complied by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics (ABARE), the statistics also showed the food and beverage sector remained Australia’s largest manufacturing industry and employed around 206,000 people in 2007-08.

“This report reinforces Australia’s role as one of the food production hubs of the world,” Mr Burke said upon its release.

AFGC Chief Executive Kate Carnell added that the report confirmed Australia’s $100 billion food, grocery and beverage sector had weathered the global storm better than many other industries.

“The food and grocery sector continues to grow and provide vital employment for thousands of Australians,” Ms Carnell noted.

Today’s findings support comments made last week by the AFGC, arguing that agribusiness is becoming the “new mining sector” in terms of growth industries in Australia.

The latest GDP statistics have shown that the agrifoods industry has played a major role in keeping Australia out of recession. The ABS figures show:
· Agriculture has grown by 3 per cent between June 08 and June 09
· Food manufacturing has increased by 5.4 per cent over the same period.

Ms Carnell said the food and grocery industry offered a wide range of career opportunities across the globe from the farm-gate to corporate offices.

“This stable and resilient industry – which supplies safe, affordable and nutritious products – is something young Australians can aspire to work in and be successful,” Ms Carnell said.

Other key findings in the report included:

•the overall value of Australian farm and fisheries food production grew by 18% in the 12 months to 2007-08, to $37.4 billion (after a 7% decline the year prior);
•in 2007-08 Australia’s food exports were worth $23.4 billion, which included increased grain and oilseed exports, and a slight increase in fish or shellfish exports;
•the value of Australia’s wine exports has increased from around 2% of total food export value in 1990-91 to nearly 12% in 2007-08;
•the proportion of food exports to markets such as Indonesia, the Republic of Korea, New Zealand the United Kingdom increased over the long-term; and
•the proportion of food exports to major markets such as the US and Japan decreased over the same period, although they remain the largest food export markets.

The report also shows that around 94% of food imports were processed – not fresh – goods, including processed meat, processed seafood, processed fruit and vegetables, confectionery, beer and malt.