26 June 2009

What was the point of the Nationals?

Apparently Australia has no clearly defined international reputation in terms of food. What, the, was the point of having the Nationals hogging the Trade portfolio in government for eleven years?

As an urban-dweller who'd never vote National I was a bit miffed that the Coalition government turned determinedly away from future-oriented exports in hi-tech, the arts or education - but I assumed that for all their rhetoric they would produce a cracker of an export sector for Australian agriculture.

Sadly, no. Australian food exports have concentrated on bulk commodities rather than specific food types, causing the confusion referred to in the above article. People don't buy bulk commodities, they buy particular products.

One example where Australians have been badly served is with the rise of "New Zealand lamb". It's being marketed as a cut above, the best lamb you can get: but I've been to New Zealand and eaten lamb there - it's no better or worse than the lamb here. Yet, so far behind are we in marketing terms that "Australian lamb" risks becoming like "Dutch champagne" or "Welsh whiskey" - near enough but not good enough. Tim Fischer is using his Vatican post to be close to the FAO (thereby implying that the Ambassador to Italy isn't holding her own) - but to what end? How many people buy food on the FAO's recommendation, and is the FAO in the business of favouring one country's produce over another's?

After all that bellyaching, all that cash poured into nothing farms, you'd think that there would be a better attempt at marketing to Australia's strengths and exporting stuff that meets and exceeds those. If this was a Labor blog, there would be a lot of sunny bullshit here about what marvellous things the Rudd government is doing - but there's nothing to speak of really.

This was a good start, recognising agriculture as food - but it's gone now. Oh well. Glad I'm not a farmer. Perhaps recognising agriculture as food and selling it on that basis might be a better way of doing things - better than whinging to city people and politicians, anyway.

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