Food and grocery manufacturing is a $127bn industry in Australia and food and grocery is the biggest manufacturing sector, accounting for 32 per cent of total manufacturing output.
The sector’s importance to regional Australia can’t be overstated: of the 276,000 people employed in the industry, more than 40 per cent are in the regions. Indirectly, the sector supports thousands more people working in areas such as farming, transport and logistics, and local services.
As the COVID-19 pandemic has shown us, food and grocery manufacturing is strong and resilient, having maintained supplies to supermarkets despite enormous disruption. But the industry can’t be taken for granted; action is needed to ensure it has a prosperous future.
Remaining competitive in domestic and export markets requires innovation, new technology and added scale. This requires investment, but over the past decade profitability in Australia’s food and grocery sector has declined and capital investment has stagnated. Investments by many companies, like Simplot and Mondelez, demonstrate commitment to communities and the industry.
Across the country, however, further investment is needed. This requires policy and regulatory settings that help retain companies, encourage new investment and support a vision for a strong industry future.
The right settings can transform the food and grocery manufacturing industry, its contribution to the economy, and the future of so many communities across regional Australia.