Business / Companies

Food firms signed 100-yr Aussies-Sino partnership

(Xinhua) Updated: 2014-07-31 11:01

CANBERRA - Mining billionaire Andrew Forrest has reportedly signed up three of China's biggest food companies to join his radical push to revive Australia's farm sector and position the nation as China's largest supplier of agricultural products over the next 100 years.

Forrest, who has long championed an Australian-Chinese food partnership, said he would like to see a time when Autralia was seen "as China's friendliest, largest, most reliable, highest quality, most competitive, most efficient food and agricultural products supplier."

The tycoon will be joined on Thursday by federal Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce, Business Council of Australia chief Jennifer Westacott and industry leaders in Sydney for the first meeting of the Australia-Sino 100-Year Agricultural and Food Safety Partnership, known as ASA 100.

Forrest told The Australian newspaper that he believed it was "unprecedented" for the Chinese agribusiness giants - privately owned New Hope Group, state-owned COFCO Group and Singapore-listed Wilmar International - to back such an initiative.

The idea for a 100-year partnership arose from a meeting between Forrest and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in Beijing earlier this year. Forrest said Li's No 1 concern was ensuring a safe food supply for China's 1.3 billion people.

Forrest made his fortune selling iron ore to China as the founder of Pilbara miner Fortescue Metals Group, but in recent years he has turned his attention to philanthropy and agribusiness.

In May, he acquired Western Australia's largest beef processor, Harvey Beef, which is the state's only accredited exporter to China.

Thursday's meeting will bring together the Australian side of the partnership, with meetings to be held in China in coming months.

The ASA 100 will comprise 50 members from each country who will meet annually. Members will include federal, state and territory ministers, major food producers and distributors from Australia and China.

Forrest rejected suggestions that Australia would struggle to become the "food bowl" for Asia due to constraints such as drought and a lack of infrastructure.

"Australia has had those constraints for over 200 years and at various points in time we've performed spectacularly well and competed spectacularly well overseas, and at other times we haven't," he told The Australian. "I believe this is about a cohesive response from Australia."

Forrest said China had become used to dealing with Australian states and companies that were competing against each other.

Forrest said there were often gaps between state and federal policy and he believed the ASA 100 would enable participants to address inefficiencies across the sector.

He welcomed increased foreign investment in Australian agribusiness, admitting this put him at odds with Agriculture Minister Joyce.

Food firms signed 100-yr Aussies-Sino partnership

Food firms signed 100-yr Aussies-Sino partnership

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