Melbourne is Australia’s second largest city, with a population of around 4.6 million people. The area surrounding Melbourne’s urban fringe, or peri-urban area, is also one of the most productive agricultural regions in Victoria. It produces a variety of foods, especially a significant amount of fresh vegetables.
As Melbourne has grown, so too has its demand for food. However, growth in Melbourne’s population and industrial base has largely been accommodated by reducing the amount of land available for food production. This food paradox of urbanisation – that urbanisation simultaneously drives local demand for food higher and local production lower – is symbolic of the challenge of food production in an increasingly urbanised world. The traditional model of Melbourne’s urban development has clearly prioritised residential uses over food production in the peri-urban fringe.
Yet, the loss of farmland in Melbourne’s foodbowl to urban development is not inevitable, at least to the extent it has been lost in the past. Cities have choices over how to grow, and where. Making the right choices depends on having good information on the value of land use for different purposes, such as housing, food production or public open space.
Deloitte Access Economics has been engaged by the Victorian Eco-Innovation Lab at the University of Melbourne to undertake an economic analysis of the value of one of those land uses – the use of land to grow food.
The purpose of this project is to provide an assessment of the value of agriculture and related value-adding activities in Melbourne’s foodbowl, both now and in the future under different urban development and consumer food preference scenarios.