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Published: 18 Nov 2022

THE quality of Tasmania's agricultural produce is something that I knew in theory before coming to live in Tasmania in 2019, though the experience of it still came as a surprise once I had arrived.

I have lived all over the world, and I can say that the food produced in Tasmania is as good and better than I have experienced elsewhere.
With a background in livestock production in the UK, I have marvelled at the extremely diverse agricultural sector in Tasmania: veggies, berries, cherries, wine in addition to the livestock sector that I am more familiar with.

Tasmania has a reputation for not only meeting market requirements, but for its adaptability and willingness for change, as evidenced by the growth of the poppy, pyrethrum, and berry sectors.

In addition, the growth of the Tasmanian agri-food sector over the last decade has been remarkable, as it has outpaced the growth of the state more generally, to become even more important to the economy of Tasmania.

However, it is obvious to all that we are not short of challenges to overcome. Not least amongst these are climate change, maintaining our ecosystem services and environment, maintaining our soils, making the most of the investment in irrigation, enabling and adapting to the coming age of automation, the list goes on.

None of these challenges are going to go away, and they will require the best brains if they are to be resolved.

There is an unprecedented demand for skilled workers to enter Australia's agriculture industry, with six jobs available for every university agricultural science graduate.

If anything, this figure appears to have got worse in recent years. We have to ask ourselves why an industry with excellent job prospects is struggling to attract entrants.

Some of the young people that I speak to tell me that the perception is that careers in agriculture are poorly paid, dirty, and backbreaking.

Of course, it is none of these. I believe that we as an industry need to come together to communicate better with those considering their future on what a career in the industry means. The jobs are rewarding, diverse and can contribute towards a sustainable and productive future.

The industry can't just take it easy and expect these false perceptions to be broken for them; we need to consider how they can work together to enable entrants to come into our industry.

Other industries, such as construction, health, defence, and mining are competing hard for those entrants, and we as an industry need to step-up. It is time for coordinated action, incorporating the peak bodies, industry, government and educational providers, to create a more compelling offer.

Today (November 18) National Agriculture Day, a day to celebrate agriculture in Australia, the quality of the food, and the contribution the sector makes to the Australian economy.

As this year's celebration comes around, we as an industry should consider what we can do to underpin the future of the sector, to ensure that its future continues to shine.

Professor Michael Rose, Director, Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture

Source: This article was published in Tasmanian Country Newspaper on 18 November 2022