Driven by the promise of greater infrastructure spend, however, things are changing – including a recent and renewed industry focus on sugar and other horticulture commodities including bananas, mangoes, melons and avocados.
"With its relatively stable cost base, along with its proximity to Asia… northern Australia presents an appealing agricultural opportunity to investors.”
Critical to the success of this change - and building the diversification of the region’s agriculture industry - will be the sector’s ability to attract the necessary level of capital.
New research from ANZ, released at the latest Northern Australia Food Future conference, suggests an additional $A15 billion in capital and 3 per cent productivity growth per year would increase the size of the northern-Australian agricultural sector by 52 per cent – generating an extra $A73 billion in production by 2030.
Northern-Australian agriculture was worth approximately $A8.3 billion in 2016-17, just under 14 per cent of national agricultural production. Attracting new investment and utilising it well will be core to the industry’s ability to expand its existing base and develop future opportunities in additional commodities such as aquaculture and horticulture.
To generate the additional investment and capital required, the industry must demonstrate the region’s growth potential and benefits, especially those it has over southern Australia.