The food processing industries are transforming their way of life, as the industry continues to grow and as demand for their products continues to rise.
In the coming years, food processing is expected to be a key driver of the growth of the Australian economy, with the potential to drive more than $US10 billion ($12.5 billion) into the economy over the next decade, according to a report by the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
The Australian Industry Group (AICG) said in its 2016 National Food Security Strategy Report that the food sector is set to drive a $US1.7 trillion economy over 10 years.
The food industry is the largest employer in Australia and employs nearly 11.5 million people.
In fact, the Australian Food Processing Industry (AFPI) has more than a billion workers across four regions: regional Australia, central Australia, the Northern Territory and New South Wales.
In a 2015 study, the ACMA found that food processing accounted for more than one-quarter of the gross domestic product (GDP) of Australia.
The report said food processing had contributed to about 80 per cent of the jobs in the economy in 2016, which would rise to around 70 per cent by 2035.
“The food processing sector will continue to be important to the economic growth of Australia in the years ahead,” said the AICG.
“With more people relying on food processing, and the industry’s capacity to absorb these workers, the industry is likely to have a significant impact on our economic growth over the long-term.”
“The Australian food processing workforce is projected to grow by nearly 2.5 per cent per annum through to 2030,” it said.
The growth in the industry would mean it would need to grow its workforce by around 5 per cent to keep pace with the growth in population and the economy as a whole.
“If we were to keep up with population growth in Australia, we would need another 20 million food processing jobs to fill our current workforce,” said Andrew Whitehead, chief executive of the ACMM.
“Food processing is a key component of the food supply chain and will be a crucial part of the industry in the future.”
Our industry needs to diversify its workforce, and keep up the pace of innovation to keep growing.””
Our food processing companies are now employing more than half a million Australians across their four regional areas, and this has been a significant contributor to the food chain growth and employment.
“The report also said that the Australian food industry employs around 20 per cent more people than the total workforce in the United States.
It is estimated that there are over 50,000 food processing positions across Australia, with an average age of 41 years.”
In our region of central Australia alone there are more than 1,400 food processing workers,” Mr Whitehead said.”
They are employed in almost every food processing facility in the region.
“We have been able to increase the workforce in this sector by about 15 per cent annually, which has resulted in an additional 4,200 jobs, or over 8 per cent in our region.”
“This will mean we will be able to grow our food supply chains faster and better than ever before.”
Food processing has been an important component of Australia’s food supply.
Photo: AP Photo/Paul Rovere.
In 2016, the Federal Government introduced the Australia-wide food safety regime, which includes the requirement to secure food safety through strict testing.
The new system includes a national food assurance framework.
The ACMM said that while it was not yet clear what would happen in the coming months, there was a lot to look forward to.
“This report highlights the importance of food safety in the Australian community,” Mr Whithead said, “and we are committed to ensuring that the Food Safety and Quality Act continues to provide the tools that the industry needs.”
The Australian Food and Grocery Manufacturers Association (AFGMMA), the country’s largest food industry body, said that it was very concerned about the report’s findings.
“While we are confident that food safety will continue into the future, the food safety sector must ensure that it remains sustainable and resilient in the face of growing competition from global food companies,” the AFRMA said in a statement.
“It is vital that food companies continue to work closely with government and regulators to ensure the safety and quality of their food supply is maintained.”