Global Agriculture

Agri-food sector on show at ASEAN-Australia Special Summit

16 March 2024, AU: The ASEAN-Australia Special Summit was held in Melbourne last week to celebrate 50 years of Australian engagement with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

After 50 years of dialogue, agriculture is more important to the relationship than ever before. The Special Summit built further on our relationships, cooperation, and trade opportunities—something vital for Australian agricultural trade as ASEAN grows.

We know that by 2040 Southeast Asia will be an economic powerhouse that is projected to be the world’s fourth-largest economy as a bloc after the United States, China, and India. ASEAN—with a consumer market 10 times larger than Australia’s.

Australia’s agricultural exports to the ASEAN region have nearly doubled over the past 5 years, reaching $17.2 billion in 2023. Australia also sources a fifth of its agricultural imports from the region, highlighting the significance of the relationship and growing opportunities for two-way trade and investment between Australia and the ASEAN region.

Currently About 23 per cent of Australia’s agricultural exports go to Southeast Asia, and there is huge potential for further growth in that market. Leaders and ministers from 10 countries across Southeast Asia attended the Special Summit alongside Australian and Southeast Asian CEOs. Together, they shared their vision for growth in our region.

Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Murray Watt spoke of how highly Australia values our relationship with ASEAN, and that Australia is serious about increasing agricultural trade to Southeast Asia to benefit Australian producers and provide food security to our near neighbours and region.

Minister Watt led the food futures and agri-tech panel discussion with four Small to Medium Enterprise CEOs (SMEs) and held productive discussions at the Agriculture and Food Supply Chains CEO roundtable.

There was wide ranging discussion from demonstrating our agricultural stainability credentials to the importance of First Nations involvement in agriculture and promoting Indigenous Australian produce to the ASEAN market. There was also a focus on opportunities for collaboration to protect our food systems by managing biosecurity threats to our region together.

The diverse range of ASEAN markets was promoted as a positive for our exporters, as it provides options for different products, classes of produce, and when conditions in one market experience a down-turn producers and exporters can turn to supply another. This was highlighted for Australian citrus meets demand in the ASEAN market for a wide range of sizes and variety of fruit.

The future for Australia and ASEAN’s relationship is bright. Our involvement with the Special Summit stretched beyond collaborating on the trading of goods and services and encouraged the trade of ideas and solutions to our collective challenges.

The visit from our ASEAN friends also allowed for a visit to Ellinbank Smart Farm in Victoria’s Gippsland to demonstrate Australian agriculture’s innovation and sustainability credentials first hand. Minister Watt hosted a delegation from Vietnam, including his counterpart, Minister Hoan; Southeast Asian agri-food CEOs; and Australian Research and Development Corporations (RDC) CEOs. The smart farm is one of Australia’s leading dairy research and innovation facilities and aims to be the first carbon-neutral, pasture-based dairy farm by 2026.

Overall, the ASEAN-Australia Special Summit strengthened relationships between government and industry across the region by bringing together eminent speakers to discuss opportunities and challenges of expanding into the ASEAN region.

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