SYDNEY, June 30 -- Australian experts say a plan for the nation's north to become a food bowl for Asia's growing middle class is not realistic, local media reported on Monday.
Business leaders and academics say the country's northern region won't be able to produce enough food to feed billions of people predicted to live in the Asia Pacific region, the ABC reported.
Australian government and industry have discussed creating a food bowl in the country's north to cater for major demand expected within the next 50 years due to a global food shortage.
Donald McGauchie, chairman of the Australian Agricultural Company, said in order for Australia to cater for Asia's future food needs it needed to double its production across the whole country.
"The industries that have the capacity to do that are clearly the beef industry, the dairy industry and grains industry," he said.
However, experts say poor soil quality and limited water supply are major obstacles to overcome.
"We can certainly increase our food production in northern Australia, but whether we can increase it to the extent that it can actually feed billions of people, I think that's very doubtful, " said retired Major General John Hartley, CEO of strategic analysis firm Future Directions International.
Professor Sandra Harding, Vice-Chancellor and President of James Cook University, said the north should instead diversify and become a world leader in tropical health.
"We're a developed country with the largest tropical land mass. We have major scientific assets, we have researchers, we have expertise. This is important for our own population, but it's absolutely critically important for the rest of the world," she said.