By Edwina Farley ABC

Australia’s agricultural exporters are on notice that it’s no time for complacency in regard to getting deals done with Asia.

At the ABARES Outlook Conference in Canberra, the Australian Farm Institute’s Mick Keogh warned delegates that our proximity to Asia was no guarantee of regional trade success, and now was not the time to be complacent.

It comes as the National Farmers Federation is touring Korea, trying to secure further trade deals with what has become Australia’s second largest agricultural trading partner.

President Jock Laurie, who is currently in Seoul, says Australia is risking a multi-billion dollar market by not having a trade agreement in place.

“Total losses to Australian agriculture could run into the multi billions of dollars. Australian farmers are losing out in a major way while ever we don’t have an FTA with Korea and our major competitors like the USA do,” Mr Laurie said.

“We are effectively handing over more and more of our hard-earned market share each year to farmers in the USA and other regions.”

The warnings follow comments yesterday from ABARES’ chief Paul Morris that now was no time for farmers to “sit back and relax” with food prices remaining relatively stable for the next 30 years.

He believes a ‘food boom’ for Australia is not guaranteed by Asia’s rising middle class and burgeoning populations. Rather, he says, Australia could face stiffer competition in its export markets from those developing countries.

In fact, the national commodity forecaster is predicting farmers globally will become so good at producing more food that prices may in fact decline from 2050.

Mr Morris said innovation and targeted marketing were the key to success; that’s been backed up the Mick Keogh who says farmers here can’t afford to rest on their laurels and that we must fight harder for trade concessions.

Mr Morris pointed to technology like soil mapping to target the most productive areas for crops, adopting the highest yielding genetically-modified crops and a quicker take-up of technological advances as ways to strengthen the sector.