Food & Agribusiness Talking Points | 31/01/2018

In today’s talking points: Large growth in Australian wine exports to China; China to modernise agriculture industry through technology; Australia to reform genetic modification laws; Start-up to trial vertical farms in China


Large growth in Australian wine exports to China

The Australian wine export market has experienced record growth of 15 per cent in value and 8 per cent in volume over 2017. Wine Australia CEO Andreas Clark says this has largely been driven by the Chinese market, that grew by 63% in the past year. Such buoyancy in wine exports had not been evident since 2004, although it was not without its shortcomings. The value of exports to both the United States and the United Kingdom have declined by 2 per cent while exports to Canada were down 3 percent. Nevertheless, the UK market still remains the largest by volume, despite a shock by Brexit.

Read more at: ABC


China to modernise agriculture industry through technology

The State Council has highlighted the importance of technology in agriculture by issuing guidelines on developing agricultural high-tech industry demonstration zones. Vice Minister of Science and Technology Xu Nanping says that ‘the future of China’s agriculture sector lies in agricultural modernisation’, with the key to doing so lying in technology. The main focuses of the demonstration zones, as outlined by the guidelines are ‘promoting efficiency’, ‘increasing farmer’s incomes’ and ‘boosting green development’. The state council will also give support through finance, and land use and technological management.

Read more at: Xinhuanet


Australia to reform genetic modification laws

Australian genetic modification regulator Raj Bhula has proposed changes to regulations surrounding genetic technology and gene editing. The most notable change proposed would separate the definition of gene editing from genetic modification, lessening restrictions on the process. According to Dr Bhula, gene editing is a safer alternative to genetic modification, as rather than inserting foreign genetic material into a cell, it merely involves the modification of the pre-existing material within. Gene editing has previously been used to produce fungus resistant bananas, and it is hoped these lessened regulations will allow for faster growing, higher yield and more drought resistant crops.

Read more at: ABC


Start-up to trial vertical farms in China

Agricultural start-up Plenty, funded in part by Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos, looks to trial vertical farming in 300 locations across China. Following years of food safety scandals, the start-up hopes to capitalise on increased demand for organic products in particular. These vertical farms, where produce is grown out from towers inside a greenhouse, are said to dramatically reduce the amount of water and viable agricultural land used per harvest. The plans come following statements by Chinese agriculture minister Han Changfu, who emphasised the importance of product quality over quantity. Plenty is currently able to produce crops including herbs, kale and mustard greens, with plans to look into the viability of strawberries and cucumbers.

Read more at: Quartz