South Australia’s capacity to collaborate to address common challenges and meet new opportunities emphasises why the food, wine and agribusiness sector is primed for further growth..
Able to respond in a time of crisis
Recent challenges have demonstrated how the industry, the Government and all South Australians have been willing and able to respond in a time of crisis. Just last summer, a number of South Australian regions were tragically impacted by bushfires. For impacted farmers, the statewide community spirit, farming industry collaboration and government support have all been important in assisting in the immediate response and ongoing recovery from those fires.
By March, everyone was faced by the health concerns and economic impacts of COVID-19. In the food, wine and agribusiness sector, businesses were forced to rely on their business continuity plans and ability to quickly respond to new market changes and operating conditions.
To support industry, Government was able to quickly focus resources on listening to industry issues and concerns, while implementing policies and communicating with industry to manage the health risks of COVID-19 while enabling business operations to continue where it was safe to do so.
Adapting to address climate challenges
The industry also faces some longer term issues. Changing consumer and market demands, competition for resources and unexpected market access decisions of foreign nations are just some of the challenges that need to be addressed. Droughts, hailstorms and bushfires have also had significant impacts on a number of South Australian regions in the last five years. Impacts from extreme weather events vary across regions – including significant fire damage to vineyards and forestry plantations, declining direct and indirect employment opportunities, reduced crop yields and decreases in livestock stocking rates.
Industry is already adapting to address the climate challenges. For example, improved farming practices and varieties have seen 35 per cent higher average grain yields than 10 years ago, and production in recent drought years is more than double what it was during comparable droughts of the mid-2000s. Horticultural netting, AgTech solutions and enhanced farm business financial literacy are also increasing resilience and productivity. Ongoing adaption to climate variability will continue to be a focus for our sector into the future.
The industry’s proven ability to overcome times of adversity, and the ongoing work to meet current challenges, means an investment in the local industry makes good business sense and will pay strong dividends in the future of South Australia’s economy.
The Food, Wine and Agribusiness Sector will be dynamic and adapt to social, economic and climate challenges including the recent COVID-19 pandemic. While the plan’s immediate priorities will be shaped by the pandemic’s impact on global trade, including changes to consumer preferences and behaviours, we expect even stronger demand for clean, safe and sustainably produced food, wine and agricultural produce from South Australian farmers in the future. The state’s parochial nature has been reinforced through the pandemic with consumers showing a strong sentiment for supporting local businesses, brands and livelihoods.
The state’s world-leading response to the threat of COVID-19 means we have been able to fast track our economic road to recovery in a safe and responsible way. It has reinforced that our state is a safe place to live, work and do business.
We are now in a much more favourable position than many of our competitors, which may provide us with tactical export market opportunities. Our success in managing COVID-19 will further bolster our premium status in overseas markets and may also provide us with additional opportunities to attract new investment.
As the driest state in the driest inhabited continent of the world, water is our most valuable resource and an important asset for our businesses. Our industry has adopted a range of water efficiency measures including improved irrigation efficiencies, water productivity of crops, as well as alternative water sources such as recycled waste water.