A LOT more can and needs to be done if Australia is to capitalise on the enormous global potential of its agriculture and food processing sectors.
Marking National Agriculture Day with an online address to the Rural Press Club of Queensland, Coca-Cola Amatil group managing director Alison Watkins said the COVID pandemic had amplified Australia's importance as a global food supplier. However, the opportunities needed to be seized upon - particularly in Asia - if they were to become a reality, she said.
"Clearly we have a well established standing as a clean, green country and as a safe source of supply," Ms Watkins said.
"And as countries are increasingly looking to diversify their food chains, we are in a relatively very good place to invest.
"Food is a hugely sensitive issue for countries that can't be food self-sufficient and have to rely on imports to feed their populations.
"That's unlike us, where we have access to much more productive land and agricultural know-how and expertise than we can use ourselves.
"We do have a tremendous advantage that is difficult for other countries to replicate."
Ms Watkins, who is particularly well known in the rural sector through her former role as CEO of GrainCorp, said countries that managed the COVID pandemic well would emerge with even stronger reputations.
"We went in with a strong reputation and I think we can come out with an even better one," she said.
With so much demand right on our doorstep, we're in a tremendously privileged position of being able to pick our spots.
Ms Watkins said COVID was also accelerating the demand for healthy and sustainable food products, meaning Australia's already $138 billion agri-food sector could become even larger.
"That focus on health and sustainability compliments the National Farmers' Federation's strategic target for Australia's agriculture industry to reach $100b by 2030," she said.
"That's a great ambition for us to have and I think an achievable one."
Ms Watkins said Australia had the opportunity to step-change its competitive position to achieve greater global market share, taking a 'One Australia' approach to deliver reliable product at the lowest cost.
"That's absolutely playing to our core strengths as a country - agriculture," Ms Watkins said.
"That said, it's not just going to fall into our lap. We have this great competitive position but there are plenty of other countries chasing these opportunities."
Ms Watkins said that meant Australia had to adopt an 'adaptive' food chain that was hardwired to the needs of the end consumer.
"With so much demand right on our doorstep, we're in a tremendously privileged position of being able to pick our spots," she said.
Ms Watkins also supported farmers and food manufacturers pursuing a carbon neutral base for its activities.