Overview of Australia's assistance for agriculture and food security

How we are helping 

2017-18 Budget Estimate:
$243.4 million

Productive, efficient and market-oriented agriculture provides a strong foundation for economic development. It provides employment and income, empowering women and lifting people out of poverty. Agriculture is also a substantial source of export earnings across much of our region.

Realising economic opportunities in the agriculture and food sectors, tackling hunger, malnutrition and climate pressures, and ensuring long term global food security are critical international priorities for the coming decades.

Australia advocates a comprehensive approach to food security that targets the immediate needs of the poorest, while also strengthening the foundations of long-term global food security. Australia provides immediate humanitarian food assistance delivered through agencies such as the World Food Programme (WFP) and the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). Our overseas development assistance—including through the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR)—helps improve agricultural productivity and reduce post-harvest losses. Aid program initiatives also broaden opportunities for agricultural business growth, trade and market access, and increase the ability of the poor to access food by increasing incomes and driving economic growth.

Australia’s comprehensive approach to food security includes efforts to promote open and efficient markets; where food can move freely to where it is needed most and to increase economic growth. Australia chairs the Cairns Group of 20 agricultural exporting countries, which has played an influential role in promoting global agricultural trade reform since its formation in 1986.

Millions of farmers around the world, including in developing countries, are unfairly disadvantaged in the world market as a result of trade distortions in agriculture. Trade and production distorting measures, including, for example, export restrictions, lead to greater price volatility and can create a disincentive for farmers to increase output and productivity. Distortions such as this also impede the achievement of long term food security. Further agricultural trade policy reform is essential to achieving poverty alleviation and food security objectives.

Why we give aid

Hunger places serious constraints on economic growth and further entrenches poverty. Investing in agriculture is essential to improve food security for the majority of the world’s poor, who rely directly on agriculture for subsistence, income and employment.

Agriculture is a major source of pro-poor growth in developing countries with large, poor rural populations. World Bank analysis shows that growth in the agriculture sector is two to four times more effective in lifting people out of poverty than comparable growth in other sectors. Increasing farm income benefits nutritional outcomes, allows farmers to invest more in agriculture and supports additional economic activity and employment.

Australia is committed to investing in agriculture and food security and is making a difference through its aid investments. We will:

  • improve agricultural productivity and distribution channels, and address barriers to market access, through an integrated approach that includes both development assistance and advocacy for more open markets
  • invest in agricultural research, particularly through the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), to increase productivity, reduce post-harvest losses and make supply chains more efficient
  • support small-scale farmers and entrepreneurs—many of whom are women—to meet their livelihood and food security needs, including by addressing the key challenges that inhibit commercial viability.

How we give aid

Australia has promoted a comprehensive approach to global food needs—which includes improving agricultural productivity and opening markets, while addressing the needs of the most vulnerable through efficient social protection measures. Market-oriented economic, trade and agricultural policies, good governance and infrastructure underpin private-sector investment and agricultural innovation.

Through our aid program and broader economic diplomacy efforts, Australia can help Indo Pacific countries realise agriculture’s potential contribution to sustainable economic growth.


A man inspecting a maize crop
Seeds of life maize: One of the high-yielding maize varieties (SW5) that has been tested through the Seeds of Life program in East Timor. Photo: ACIAR / DFAT.