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Agriculture and food security

Overview of Australia's assistance for agriculture and food security

2013/14 Estimated Outcome: $316.5 million

2014/15 Budget Estimate: $349.0 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 and malnutrition 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 stimulates off-farm 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.

Australia’s largest investments in agriculture are in Cambodia, Indonesia, Afghanistan, Zimbabwe, Timor Leste, Vietnam and Pakistan.

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Agriculture and food security initiatives


The Australian Government invests in agriculture and food security through global, regional and bilateral initiatives. Australia has notable technical and managerial capabilities in agricultural research which are being harnessed to improve agricultural productivity in developing countries.

Australia funds research to improve the knowledge and understanding of the challenges our partner countries face. The research also provides an evidence base to evaluate the impact of our work and improve the quality of the Australian aid program.

We are working with research institutions such as the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), the, Commonwealth Scientific Research Organisation (CSIRO), and research organisations in developing countries to sustainably increase agricultural productivity.

Australia is helping create opportunities in the Pacific and South-East Asia for the rural poor to sell and purchase goods and services and find jobs, including by partnering with the private sector. An example of this is the Cambodian Agriculture Value Chain (CAVAC) Program which is helping poor farmers increase their productivity and earn higher incomes by addressing market constraints in the rice and vegetable value chains.

In the Pacific, Australia is providing practical and targeted assistance to help island countries identify and prioritise potential export products and meet the market access and quarantine requirements of key trading partners through the Pacific Horticultural and Agricultural Market Access Program (PHAMA).

Other elements of Australia’s aid program—such as providing financial services for the poor and rural infrastructure—also help increase rural people’s incomes, assets, access to markets and resilience to shocks.

The Cambodia Agricultural Value Chain Program

$38.2 million, 2013-2020

The Cambodia Agricultural Value Chain Program (CAVAC) aims to increase farmer incomes in rice based farming systems by accelerating growth in the value of agricultural production. CAVAC strengthens market connections that promote greater investment and add value along specific product value chains that link suppliers to farmers and farmers to consumers. CAVAC provides assistance in four areas (agribusiness, water management and irrigation, research and extension, and business enabling environment) in the provinces of Kampot, Takeo and Kampong Thom. CAVAC not only builds on past achievements, it reflects what Australia has learnt from over 20 years of engagement in Cambodia’s agriculture sector as well as the changing context of agriculture in Cambodia.

Related documents*
Name of document Year published Type
CAVAC fact sheet 2014 Fact sheet
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Market Development Facility

$10.2 million, 2011-2017

The Market Development Facility (MDF) is focused on reducing poverty by stimulating economic growth. It works through partnerships with the private and public sector to identify and develop new products and services or new ways of doing business, which provide increased income and employment opportunities for poorer populations. MDF shares the risk of investment to turn local opportunities into realities.

The facility is a six-year multi-country program to increase employment and incomes for poor women and men in Fiji, Timor Leste and, more recently, Pakistan.

In Fiji, activities include working with fruit and vegetable wholesalers to supply fresh produce to hotels, expanding agro-exports, improving the quality and availability of hospitality training, and using 'Labels of Origin’ to improve incomes for women who make crafts on the outer islands.

Related documents*
Name of document Year published Type
MDF case study fact sheet 2014 Fact sheet
Related links

Research for Development Alliance—Food Systems Innovation

$5 million, 2012-2015

The Food Systems Innovation initiative is about using and applying agricultural research to benefit the lives of as many people as possible. It aims to increase the development outcomes from research. FSI brings together the strengths of CSIRO, ACIAR, the Australian International Food Security Research Centre and DFAT to do this. FSI’s current focus is on linking development programs with research and evidence on the role of agriculture in addressing malnutrition, and the role of the private sector in agriculture and poverty reduction.

Related documents*
Name of document Year published Type
FSI fact sheet 2014 Fact sheet
Related links

Global Agriculture and Food Security Program

$100 million, 2010-2014

Australia is a strong supporter of the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP), a multilateral mechanism that emerged out of the G8 and G20 processes to boost investment in agriculture and food security. GAFSP provides grants to low-income countries to assist them to implement national strategies to raise agricultural productivity, link farmers to markets, improve non-farm rural livelihoods, and reduce risk and vulnerability. Australia has contributed $100 million to the GAFSP initiative to date.

Related documents*
Name of document Year published Type
GAFSP Update Feb-May 2014 2014 Progress report
Related links


$20.5 million, 2011-2014

Australia is also supporting agricultural innovation for smallholders and new ways of financing research and adoption through AgResults. In its first stages, AgResults will help to improve crop storage, fight crop disease and produce more nutritious food. Future work will concentrate on achieving game-changing advances in green fertiliser and animal vaccines. Australia has provided $20 million towards this initiative.

Related documents*
Name of document Year published Type
What is AgResults? 2014 Fact sheet/Progress report
Related links

Pacific Horticultural and Agricultural Market Access Program

$30.8 million, 2010-2017

The Pacific Horticultural and Agricultural Market Access (PHAMA) program aims to improve economic growth and livelihoods in Pacific countries by increasing Pacific horticultural and agricultural exports to international markets. The program has been initially implemented in Samoa, Tonga, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Fiji and has two key components:

  • Addressing market access priorities identified by national private-public sector partnerships through technical assistance or research
  • Strengthening the capability of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community to better engage on agriculture and forestry issues in the region.
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The Australia-Indonesia Partnership for Rural Economic Development

$112 million, 2010-2017

The Australia-Indonesia Partnership for Rural Economic Development (AIPD - Rural) aims to increase the productivity of 1 million farmers in eastern Indonesia by 30 per cent by 2022. In support of higher incomes, the expected outcomes include: more efficient use of farm inputs and practices; improved access to better functioning markets and an improved business environment in selected value chains. These outcomes will be achieved through a combination of: research to identify market opportunities; training and technical assistance for on- and off-farm enterprises to improve productivity; influencing the wider policy, infrastructure and regulatory environment through demand-driven public and private services to farmers; and small-scale grants to address infrastructure bottlenecks (e.g. roads) that inhibit access to markets.


Last reviewed: 17 December, 2014