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COVID-19 disruption, food security and a new way of exporting food

Australia has an enviable reputation for high-quality food exports. Our clean environment, superior inputs and rigorous safety standards stand behind that reputation. This combination has seen Australian food become sought after throughout Asia and the world.



We can extend this reputation to Australian-made plant-based meat products and build an export industry in novel proteins to feed burgeoning demand and aid regional food security. This is the natural extension of our success over the past decades exporting premium products from grains to milk and seafood.


Daily headlines over trade spats represent the small tip of a very big iceberg. The truth is that the markets we export to cannot produce enough food to be self-sufficient, and consumers in those markets have demonstrated a strong and durable preference for Australian products.


Asia’s diet is changing from staple grains to protein-rich foods. Where consumers in Australia or the USA are changing from one protein to another – typically animal meat to plant-based meat – many Asian families are upping the overall amount of protein in their diets. When plant-based meat takes hold under these conditions in Asian markets, the growth in demand will be even greater than we have seen in Europe, North America and Australia.


As the disruption to supply chains that accompanies the pandemic lingers, and the effects of climate change are felt, the concern with food security in our region will only increase. Australia’s clean, green reputation positions us well to capitalise on rising consciousness of the need to eat sustainably among the middle classes of Asian markets – areas that already contain many vegetarians.


Food Frontier CEO Thomas King highlighted these economic opportunities at the 2020 Global Food Forum. He said, “[protein-rich] crops could be value-added…as a crucial part of reaching that $100 billion target as an industry”.


And KPMG has found that demand in Australia’s top 10 agricultural markets (India, China, Indonesia, USA, Vietnam, Malaysia, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Korea and Japan) over the short to mid-term remains favourable with demand set to increase steadily until at least 2025.


There is no earthly reason that a country with such a proud agricultural history, such a depth of research and development, and such a strong global reputation for food quality, should be importing products in the fastest-growing food category of all.

The global consulting firm predicts a rise in micro supply chains - finite, decentralised, agile ‘mini operating models’, with flexible supplier contracts and relationships, and manufacturing closer to the point of purchase. Australia’s proximity to Asia means we are well-placed to ensure not just food security for the region, but resilient regional supply chains in protein-based foods.


Despite the size of the opportunity, Australia is not currently acting strategically to capitalise. While our company manufactures in Australia with a preference for locally-grown inputs, the vast majority of the plant-based meat products on our supermarket shelves are imported, often from North America.


There is no earthly reason that a country with such a proud agricultural history, such a depth of research and development, and such a strong global reputation for food quality, should be importing products in the fastest-growing food category of all.


Now is the time to scale up our manufacturing capability, build the infrastructure required to produce plant-based meat at a serious scale, and start addressing not only our own food security, but the food security of our entire region.


We have export markets on our doorstep where there is a growing concern around food security, a burgeoning appetite for protein and a rising consciousness of the need for sustainable eating. We have been researching the production of plant-based proteins for decades. Now that the opportunity exists to apply this research at a regional and global scale, we must seize it.



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