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Healthy, wealthy and wise: How can the North capitalise on the emerging functional food market?
presentationposted on 2021-10-27, 03:52 authored by Joel JohnsonJoel Johnson, Kerry WalshKerry Walsh, Janice ManiJanice Mani, E Hoyos, Surya BhattaraiSurya Bhattarai, Mani NaikerMani Naiker
To survive in an increasingly competitive economic environment, the Northern Australian agricultural sector needs to expand overall production and diversify its cropping systems. Functional foods – which provide health-benefitting effects in addition to nutritional benefits – provide one potential option for maximising farmers’ returns, with numerous surveys suggesting that customers will pay a 10-40% price premium for foods with demonstrated health benefits. These health benefits could include reducing the risk of consumers developing cardiovascular disease, cancer, or cognitive disorders. Over the next six years, the global functional food market is projected to grow from $230 to $400 billion AUD (7.5% p.a. growth), although CSIRO projects only 3% p.a. growth in the export opportunities for the Australian functional food market over the same period (from $2.8 to $3.3 billion). This presents an enormous opportunity for Australia to expand functional food production, improving returns for growers and opening opportunities for creating novel value-adding food processing industries. This opportunity is particularly relevant to Northern Australia as strategies are developed to expand and transform agricultural production into higher-value areas. Ongoing work at CQUniversity is investigating current and emerging functional food crops suited to production in the Northern Australia, including identifying new germplasm lines best suited to cultivation in the northern environment. Case studies are presented on two established commercial crops (chickpea and mungbean) and one emerging crop (Australian finger lime), with a focus on their phenolic and antioxidant content – classes of compounds with well-known health-benefitting activity. Both chickpeas and mungbean are currently grown as far north as Central Queensland, while finger lime is native to Southern and Central Queensland. Identification of high-performing lines suited to Northern Australian conditions should aid in expanding the growing regions of these crops, increasing returns and decreasing risk for farmers in the north.