Australia - Agriculture

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

In 2016, (the latest year for which multilateral and bilateral OECD data is available) Australia spent US$171 million of its ODA on agriculture, representing 5% of total ODA in that year. Bilateral channels have been Australia’s main funding mechanism for agriculture; in 2016, just 24% of Australia’s ODA to agriculture went to multilaterals. Bilateral funds accounted for the remaining 76% of Australia’s funding to the agriculture sector in 2016, well above the DAC average of 55%. In 2018, bilateral funding to agriculture remained steady compared to 2017 at US$167 million.

13- Australia bi-multi AG ODA

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15 - Agriculture ranking absolute - Australia

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16 - Agriculture ranking percentage - Australia

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After a peak of US$320 million in 2012, Australia’s funding to agriculture mostly decreased, reaching a multi-year low of US$171 million in 2016. Budget documents indicate a reversal in the downward trend between FY2016/17 and FY2018/19, when total ODA to agriculture, fisheries, and water reached A$379 million (US$283 million). The budget for fiscal year (FY) 2019/20 outlines A$338 million (US$253 million) in ODA for this sector. This represents 8% of the overall ODA budget.

Despite funding cuts, agriculture (‘agriculture, fisheries and water’) was one of six priority areas of Australia’s development strategy between 2014 and 2020. Agricultural development is not featured as a sector of primary concern in Australia’s newly released development policy, ‘Partnerships for Recovery: Australia’s COVID-19 Development Response’ (launched May 2020). In line with the overall focus on COVID-19, the policy addresses agricultural development only in relation to the crisis. It suggests a knowledge-sharing initiative between the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) and counterpart agencies in the Pacific and Southeast Asia aimed at preventing future pandemics by raising awareness around the connections between human, animal, and environmental health. It also outlines Australia’s plan to support smallholder farmers struggling as a result of market downturns and supply chain interruptions.

In 2018, Australia invested US$72 million in bilateral funds toward the subsector of agricultural research, which accounted for 43% of total Australian bilateral ODA to the sector. This marks a 13% increase compared to 2017. Funding for agricultural development (US$28 million or 17%) also rose by 29%. Bilateral assistance for rural development (US$28 million or 17%) was cut by 24% compared to 2017 but remained above 2016 levels.

Australia also committed A$92 million (US$69 million) from 2015 to 2020 to the Cambodia Agricultural Value Chain Program for greater productivity in smallholder rice-based farms in Cambodia. It has also committed A$21 million (US$15 million) for 2013 to 2023 to the ‘AgResults’ initiative and made contributions to the Pacific Horticultural and Agricultural Market Access Program, as well as the Australia-Indonesia Partnership for Rural Economic Development.

As part of its strategic priority on innovation and agriculture research funding, Australia funds the ACIAR. ACIAR is a government authority that reports to the Minister for Foreign Affairs and works closely with researchers in partner countries, the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), Australian state governments, and universities.

Despite the small share of agricultural funds channeled through multilaterals, Australia does contribute to CGIAR (US$17 million in 2019) and the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP; A$110 million or US$82 million pledged for 2010-2024).

DFAT leads on policy development for agriculture; ACIAR 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 and Water Resources deliver 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.