Australia has the potential to become a food superpower for Asia, Prime Minister Julia Gillard said in a speech in which she urged greater commercial engagement with China.
Australia's economy is riding a mining and resources boom, but Gillard said the vast nation should also exploit its ability to produce high-quality food.
"Just as we have become a minerals and energy giant, Australia can be a great provider of reliable, high-quality food to meet Asia's growing needs," Gillard said in the speech to The Global Foundation in Melbourne late Thursday.
She said Australia should take advantage of growing international markets and become "a provider of higher-value products and services for the global food industry".
Despite living on the world's driest inhabited continent, Australians have enjoyed safe and high-quality food for many decades, with the nation producing enough to feed 60 million people, almost three times its population.
Australia accounts for less than three percent of global food trade, although it is among the net food exporting nations of the world, a government report published in late 2010 said.
With Asia's middle-class rapidly expanding, Gillard said Australian businesses must find opportunities in conditions where the dollar and terms of trade would remain high for the foreseeable future.
"In some cases, Australian businesses will be able to access large Asian markets through export, including through regional supply chains," she said.
"In others, the business opportunities will be secured by establishing enterprises, including business partnerships, in Asian countries."
Gillard said Trade Minister Craig Emerson was already working to develop new agricultural partnerships between Australia and China.
"It's not just about more exports," she said.
"It is about developing the systems and services that add extra value to them and participating in the development of a market-based solution to food security across the region."