Report

Declining research and development investment: a risk for Australian agricultural productivity

26 Aug 2014
Description

Australia is facing an “investment gap” in agricultural research and development, according this paper, which argues that current levels of investment are insufficient to address the challenges faced by the agricultural sector.

Summary

Social and economic returns on agricultural research and development (R&D) investment are consistently high and correlate closely with increased productivity and low food prices. Despite this, agricultural R&D levels have declined, both globally and in Australia, over recent decades. Since the 1980s, the developed world has experienced a gradual shift in the international agricultural market, from centrally-organised rural industries to privatisation. In Australia, huge increases in private investment are evident in the agricultural research industry. While private investment is positive for the industry, it has come at the cost of a reduction in public investment. The lag time between investment in research and tangible productivity gains, means that a long-term investment approach is required. The current slowdown in public investment will influence productivity for several decades, at a time when populations are increasing globally and the costs associated with climate change are becoming more apparent. Private investment tends to be short-sighted and commodity focussed. Guidance from a long-term public R&D plan is essential, if private investment is to be effective in the long run. Australia needs to develop a system-wide, integrated investment plan, involving both public and private interests, if we hope to maintain food security for future generations.

Key points

  • Australia is facing an “investment gap” in agricultural research and development; current levels of investment are insufficient to address the challenges faced by the agricultural sector.
  • Agricultural research and development intensity has progressively declined since the 1980s, despite strong links between research and productivity.
  • This decline can be attributed to the gradual privatisation of Australian agricultural research and development investment.
  • Under-investment in agricultural R&D threatens the food security of future generations. It also leaves Australia open to the threats posed by climate change and volatile global food prices.
  • To comprehensively address this issue, Australia needs to develop an integrated investment plan, involving both the public and private sectors.
Publication Details
Published year only: 
2014
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