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A report presents the 5 megatrends that will shape Australian agriculture in coming decades

Based on the major global trends, the report presents the opportunities and challenges Australia's farmers, government and economy will encounter over the next few years.


Australian crop field.

ABARES and CSIRO have analysed how five megatrends shaping Australia’s food and fibre industries in coming decades will present both great opportunities and challenges for farmers, government and the economy.

The article stocktake of megatrends shaping Australian agriculture, released today, examines these multiple transformative changes and the impacts for Australian agriculture using latest data and research.

The five megatrends are identified as:

• Growth juggernaut, three billion empowered consumers: Rapid growth in emerging economies, particularly in Asia, will lift incomes, expectations, and economic capacity. An expanded and empowered middle class will demand higher volumes and quality of food and fibre, comes, expectations, and economic capacity. An expanded and empowered middle class will demand higher volumes and quality of food and fibre, including more protein – with rising expectations for health, provenance, sustainability, and ethics. Rising incomes in emerging Asian economies, including China, Indonesia, and India, are the primary drivers of this long-term global growth.

• Fractal politics, beware the dance of giants: Deep shifts in economic, military and cultural power will continue to reshape the world, as the rise of multiple global powers erodes previous certainties, notwithstanding increasing global integration.International trade and relations – along with food and fibre markets, supply chains and relationships – will all become more complex as nations assert their sovereignty, often in pursuit of populist appeal rather than mutual economic gains.

• More from less, the permanent race for advantage: Relentless innovation drives improved productivity, and more efficient use of materials, energy, water, land and labour. Maintaining profitable and competitive food and fibre enterprises will require ongoing innovation and change. But the benefits of change will not be shared evenly, often exacerbating existing pressures on rural industries and regional communities. Improved productivity may benefit consumers (through lower prices) more than producers. Regional population will continue to drift from farms and smaller towns to larger regional centres and capital cities.

• Cascading planetary risks, coming, ready or not: Accelerating changes in earth systems at all scales – from global to microbial – are creating multiple risks and challenges, and some opportunities. Agriculture is already impacted, and adapting. Climate and commodity prices will become more volatile, while emerging markets for carbon and ecosystem services could transform landscapes and business models.

• Disruptive technologies, opportunities for the brave: Exponential advances in digital technology, automation, genetics, and synthetics will disrupt and change how food and fibre products are made, marketed, and delivered. Production systems, supply chains, and customer engagement will become more agile and interconnected, requiring new skills and partnerships, and creating risks and opportunities for agricultural producers and regional communities.

“The article seeks to help farmers, government and industry make informed decisions about an increasingly uncertain future,” ABARES acting executive director Jared Greenville said.

“Each of the megatrends, and the sub trends we explore, involves challenges and opportunities. While the full implications of these megatrends might take decades to play out, it is useful to consider how we are positioned to respond to the changes coming our way.

“We find Australian agriculture has some crucial strengths, including a positive a long-term growth outlook in key markets, and our track record of market-driven productivity growth, innovation and competitiveness.

“Australian agriculture is well positioned, but it is critical that industry, government and communities have the tools and information they need to understand the risks and opportunities they face, so they can create a future they want.

“Well-informed decision making and risk management will remain central to Australian farming and we hope this Insights article supports this process.”

Stocktake of Megatrends shaping Australian agriculture is available in ABARES web.

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