South Australia’s agricultural sector relies heavily on China as an export market, and will watch closely how relations between the federal government and its primary export destination unfold.
That was a key takeout at Showcase SA’s July Industry Insight luncheon at Sanctuary Adelaide Zoo, where former South Australian premier Rob Kerin stepped guests through the finer detail of the opportunities and challenges facing agribusiness and its role as one of largest economic drivers for the state.
Here are Showcase SA’s key takeaways from Industry Insights: Agribusiness…
1. Agriculture is a huge industry
South Australian agriculture employs 115,000 people, and generates $15.9 billion annually. Of that value:
– 25 percent is generated from field crops.
– Over 20% from livestock.
– 15% from wine.
– 14% from forestry.
– 12% from horitculture.
– With the remaining 15% made up of dairy, seafood and other industries.
Together, the agricultural industry is four times bigger than SA’s defence and space industries combined, five times bigger than tourism, and accounts for half of the state’s exports.
2. But drought and bushfires have tested agriculture this year
The devastating bushfires that swept through Kangaroo Island and swathes of the Adelaide Hills have tested agribusiness. While bushfires didn’t impact everyone within the sector, those affect regions face uncertainty as they navigate the recovery from both the fires, and now COVID-19.
3. South Australia is unique
South Australia is more reliant on agriculture and mining than any other state – combined, they account for 90% of the state’s export industry. This is noteworthy given the state’s population is highly-concentrated in urban centres.
4. China is a critical export market
Everyone knows China is an important export market for Australia, but for South Australian agriculture, it’s critical. The state exports the majority of what it produces, however recent drought in New South Wales forcing grain sales interstate impacted profits in recent years.
China remains the sector’s most important export market, accounting for over half of all exports. This means agribusiness is vulnerable to changes in the relationship between Australia and China – exemplified by the 80% tariff imposed on Australian barley in May.
5. Workforce is a significant challenge
Reduction in backpackers movements into Australia due to COVID-19 have seen dips in workforce numbers. JobKeeper and JobSeeker changes at the beginning of the pandemic also curbed the number of possible workers in the sector.