Australia has an impressive track record of producing a superb crop, but the nation is not without its challenges.
One of those is producing a very high amount of food.
“Australia’s farming system has been one of the best in the world for centuries,” says Andrew Williams, senior vice president and research manager at The Economist Intelligence Unit.
“And yet we produce about one-third as much food per person as we consume.”
The challenge is one that Australian farmers have been grappling with since the early 20th century.
The country is also heavily reliant on imported produce, including strawberries, carrots, lettuce, tomatoes, tomatoes and onions.
“Our reliance on imported food is the most obvious thing about Australia’s problems,” says Williams.
“There’s a very deep dependency on foreign-sourced produce.
There’s also a lot of import competition, so there are always going to be trade tensions.”
“The problem is we’re a bit of a fruit and veg country,” says James Higgs, senior research fellow at the Australian National University.
“It’s got to be something that we’re not going to change too much.
It’s not like we’re going to grow a lot more of strawberries and bananas, we’re just going to go to a bit less of a lot less of fruit and vegetables.”
But, as the economy recovers, there are signs that the country may be changing its ways.
In July, the ABC revealed that Australia’s new Agriculture Minister, Barnaby Joyce, had launched a government-led research initiative to develop a new way of growing crops in the country.
In the next year, the country will join a number of countries in adopting a strategy that will include the use of hybrid or crop-specific breeding.
Williams believes that if Australia adopts this new strategy, the world will be “back to where we were in the 1960s and 1970s”.
And that’s a good thing.
“You have to look at how many more people are going to have access to these crops in a better way,” he says.
“If we can make sure we can have the same kind of agriculture for the same number of people, we can save millions of dollars in costs, and ultimately the environment as well.”
The first-ever crop of wheat was genetically engineered in the 1930s.
In 2017, Australia’s Wheat Board was also able to produce wheat that was genetically modified.
The new wheat produced at the Wheat Board’s new facility will be able to withstand the heat, frost and drought of northern Australia and can produce a wider variety of wheat than it could in the past.
The Wheat Board has a similar research and development centre in Tasmania.
“They’ve got the technology and they’re doing it right now,” says Higgs.
“The next step for the wheat industry will be to get that wheat into the market.”
Australia has been able to grow wheat and other crops because it’s so productive.
“I think we have an opportunity here to make a very big difference in the agricultural production of Australia,” says Joyce.
“We’re the only nation that can grow this wheat and produce this crop, and that is a huge benefit to Australia.”