Foreign aid: Send skills not food

FOREIGN aid to help developing nations become self-sufficient should focus on providing technical advice and science expertise, rather than simply sending masses of food overseas.

That was part of an argument to be put by Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation's Professor Robert Henry at a conference in Port Macquarie on Friday.

Prof Henry, who directs the University of Queensland alliance, said Australian farmers should be focussed on producing the best quality food niche Asian markets to capitalise on growing populations.

But he said that focus should not detract from Australia's ability to help developing countries with self-sufficiency - contrasting with some beliefs western countries should simply be providing food.

Prof Henry will tell the Australian Agricultural and Resource Economists Society on Friday that international markets are large enough to "take all of our relatively small agricultural production as high-value product".

"The recent focus on food security as a driver for increased food production risks us losing focus on our preferred role as a niche producer (of preferably high-value products) in the world food market," he said.

Prof Henry has been closely involved in efforts to develop specialty lines of wheat, rice and coffee for export markets.

Apart from a "niche market strategy", he will also call for research needs to extend beyond simply increasing productivity, but to value-adding along the production chain.

He said the formation of QAAFI had already allowed research in a single location to focus on both sides of the farm gate.