Business / Industries

Entrepreneurs with bankable ideas to ensure agriculture growth

(Xinhua) Updated: 2015-07-31 10:40

SYDNEY - It is up to entrepreneurs with bankable ideas to ensure agriculture growth and the ability to feed the region's future population, the Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) conference in Sydney heard on Thursday.

Feeding the future is one of the great questions confronting the Asian region, driven primarily by Asia's economic success, Geoff Raby, former Australian ambassador to China said.

"It's putting enormous pressure on the region's land and water resources," Raby said.

As China's middle class grows, the demand for high quality, green produce is expected to increase. "To meet the new demand, it is not enough to rely on the development of China's land," New Hope Group Chairman Liu Yonghao said.

Liu said China's traditionally sensitive agricultural products, such as rice, should be produced domestically, however he said outside of that, China will rely -- as it already does -- on importing other high quality agricultural products.

"In five to 10 years, Australia will be a land of treasure, but Australia must be aware of such treasure," Liu said.

According to Deloitte, Australia's agribusiness is one of the five leading sectors that have the potential to take over from mining as a key driver of growth in the Australian economy over time.

Liu said the framework of the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement (FTA) would help ensure Australia is able to get full use of its resources, believing the development of northern Australia will bring significant benefits to both countries.

Australian entrepreneur and mining mogul Andrew Forrest hopes that capital flows from China deregulating its financial framework will provide investment opportunities to unlock substantial groundwater in Australia.

"The groundwater opportunities in Australia are immense," Forrest told the delegates.

Forrest said unlocking the vast groundwater potential represents one of the great opportunities to meet the international demand for high quality produce, developing northern Australia into an agricultural powerhouse.

However, former Prime Minister of New Zealand Jenny Shipley said there is a gap in the conversation around what success in the development of agriculture looks like.

"I think the elements are now here, there is no question about appetite, there is no question about willingness, but actually in the end it comes down to an assessment of the risk," Shipley told the delegates. "The banking fraternity are sitting there as long as the risk is reasonable."

Shipley said it is up to the agricultural entrepreneurs to develop the sustainable and realistic business models that encourage investment.

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