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Agriculture Roundtable Conference, 4 & 5 November 2015

Download the conference program.

The Australian Farm Institute held its annual Agriculture Roundtable Conference on 4th and 5th November, 2015 at the Hilton Sydney.

A list of the speakers is available here.

The event commenced with dinner on the evening of Wednesday 4th November and continued with breakfast and a full day's discussion on Thursday 5th November.

The Australian Agriculture Roundtable Conference has been held by the Australian Farm Institute every year for over 10 years. It brings together the most senior leaders of Australian agriculture and agribusiness to discuss issues of strategic importance to the future of the sector.

The Basin Plan three years on

A feature of the 2015 Australian Agriculture Roundtable Conference will be a review of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, three years after its inception. The Basin Plan was one of the most controversial agricultural policy issues when it was introduced, and was the culmination of over 100 years of water wars between various Australian states, the Australian Government, irrigators and environmental groups.

Now, three years post inception, what lessons have been learnt, and what changes may be needed?

Succeeding in premium markets

It has been widely recognised that the major growth opportunities for Australian agriculture lie in higher value markets, in which brand values and national reputation and standards are important elements of the attractiveness of products for consumers. However, higher value domestic and international markets also bring their own challenges, with complex distribution systems, globalised, demanding retailers, the increased risk of reputational damage due to product failure, and the ever-present threat of imitation or counterfeiting.

What does it take to be successful in premium markets, either within Australia or internationally? What are the critical issues for a company, and to what extent do national biosecurity standards and safety reputations have an impact?

China and Australian Agriculture

China has been a rapidly growing market for Australian agricultural products over recent years, growing from 11.4% of the value of Australian agricultural exports in 2007-08 to 22% in 2013-14, and is now the sector's single biggest export market.

The recent economic turbulence in China has had a major impact on the Chinese sharemarket, has resulted in lower rates of Chinese GDP growth, and has resulted in the Chinese Government taking very strong action to attempt to reduce market volatility.

Given that China is now Australian agriculture's largest single market, these developments could be of critical importance for the sector, but their implications are as yet uncertain. What will the economic slowdown in China mean for Australian agriculture?

Rural telecommunications and digital infrastructure

Telecommunications and digital information systems are rapidly emerging as an important new opportunity to increase agricultural productivity. Modern agricultural machinery is now commonly internet-enabled, the cost of digital sensors has plummeted, and autonomous tractors and robots are now a reality, rather than a figment of a scientist's imagination.

The big question for the agriculture sector in Australia is whether national telecommunications infrastructure will be adequate to enable these technologies to be fully utilised, or whether this will be a significant limitation.