Australia - Agriculture

Agriculture is a priority area, but funding has decreased in line with overall budget cuts

Australia spent US$175 million or 6% of its total official development assistance (ODA) on agriculture in 2019 making it the 14th largest Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Development Assistance Committee (DAC) donor that year. This puts Australia’s prioritization of agriculture in line with other DAC donors which on average spent 7% of their ODA in this sector in 2019. Australia’s prioritization of agriculture has been steady in recent years, though in line with overall cuts to its ODA budget, spending in the sector has decreased.

86% or US$151 million of Australia’s disbursements for agriculture were channeled bilaterally in 2019, including earmarked funding through multilaterals. Research and development to improve agricultural productivity and to better understand challenges faced by partner countries are important priorities in Australia’s ODA for agriculture. As such, agricultural research received 43% of bilateral agriculture ODA in 2019, funded through the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR). Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and ACIAR also work closely with the multilateral agricultural research network, CGIAR, and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) on agricultural research in partner countries. Rural development (18%) and agricultural development (18%) were the second and third most highly funded sectors of Australia’s bilateral ODA.

Some of Australia’s bilateral funding is channeled through multilaterals as earmarked funding (US$45 million in 2019), such as Australia’s contributions to the multilateral agricultural research network, CGIAR (US$17 million in 2019), and the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP; US$104 million pledged for 2010-2024).

Compared to other DAC donors, Australia spends very little on core contributions to multilateral organizations. In 2019 Australia channeled US$25 million in ODA as core funding to multilaterals, or 14% of its total ODA to agriculture (DAC average: 47%). These funds were divided between the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (US$12 million), the Asian Development Fund (US$6 million), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO; US$5 million), and the Asian Development Bank (US$1 million).

Agricultural development is not a sector of primary concern in Australia’s new development policy, ‘Partnerships for Recovery: Australia’s COVID-19 Development Response’ (launched May 2020); however, the government still sees agriculture as an important component of partner countries’ recovery from the COVID-19 crisis and resilience to future crises. Australia supports its partners with knowledge-sharing around agricultural innovation, tackling biosecurity threats, and establishing market-oriented economic, trade, and agricultural policies.

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Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade leads on policy development for agriculture; Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research supports research

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) manages development investments according to the ‘Strategy for Australia’s aid investments in agriculture, fisheries and water’ issued in February of 2015. ACIAR, contractors, and other Australian government agencies such as the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment deliver some of Australia’s ODA for agriculture, fisheries, and water. ACIAR plays a distinctive role in research, collaborating with partner countries to foster the use of science and technology to address local challenges.