Horizons #69: What have the Romans ever done for us?

12 April, 2022

by Professor Ross Kingwell, AEGIC Chief Economist

Over many decades Australian farmers and agricultural scientists have delivered a wide range of sizeable benefits to Australia.

There is a famous Monty Python scene that touches on “What have the Romans ever done for us?” where one character repetitiously asks that question; only to eventually receive a long list of things provided by the Romans — sanitation, medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, a fresh water system, public health, and peace.

The same question could be asked of farmers and agricultural scientists: What have they ever done for us? And a similar answer but with a different long list of achievements could be cited — safe, affordable food and fibre, an increasing diversity of foods, annual inflows of millions of export dollars, increasingly efficient production systems, and varied employment for regional and city people.

Here are a few charts that extol the contributions of Australian farmers and agricultural scientists.

Note: The production measure on the vertical axis above is the ABARES chain volume index of Australian agricultural production.

These three charts show that Australian agriculture has a diminishing land footprint yet the volume of farm production continues to trend upwards; plus in real terms Australian agriculture is generating an ever-increasing value of rural exports. That’s an impressive track record and it’s mostly underpinned by the skill and diligence of Australia’s farmers, agricultural scientists and support services.

It’s mostly the scientists who create higher-yielding plants and animals and it’s scientists and innovative farmers who help develop more efficient ways of producing an increasingly diverse array of farm products. It’s scientists, engineers and innovative farmers who develop new machinery, gadgets, and technologies to expedite farm production. It’s farmers who need to test out, reject or embrace all the many innovations and opportunities for engaging in farm production. They do all that whilst daily managing all the complexities thrown at them by seasonal conditions and market movements.

So, like the Romans, what have Australian farmers and agricultural scientists ever done for us!  Well, quite a lot really; and they keep on delivering.

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Horizons: the AEGIC Economics and Market Insights blog

Expert grains industry analysis and commentary from AEGIC’s Economics and Market Insight Team on a range of big-picture topics that affect Australia’s export grains sector.


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