South-west Victoria is the country's largest agricultural producer according to the region's peak food and fibre body, but there are concerns the sector's huge potential will be slashed by industry cuts and poor marketing.
An analysis of latest ABS data by Food and Fibre Great South Coast showed out of fifty natural resource management areas, the Glenelg Hopkins area was first and Corangamite was eighth in terms of gross value.
Together the agricultural regions contributed more than $4.6 million in production across the 2019-20 period.
Latest FFGSC data also showed the region's agricultural industry accounted for more than 21 per cent of all jobs, drives 60 per cent of the regional economy and contributes more than $3 billion in annual GRP.
FFGSC chief executive officer Natalie Collard said there was plenty of potential for further growth.
"Research we commissioned last year found there was huge potential for significant industry growth with simple, sustainable adjustments to our water use," Ms Collard said.
"If we increase water efficiency by a very achievable 10 per cent we would see notable outcomes for industry productivity, including an additional $40 million for our local economy, 400 FTE and $21.7 million for local households.
"Critically, this can be done while upholding our strong commitment to sustainable water use. We're now working hard with industry to make that happen with sustainable practices and improved water management.
"It's important to remember that this is a vital next step not just for agribusinesses but the entire local community who reap the benefits."
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But FFGSC chair Georgina Gubbins said that potential was being "undermined".
It comes as more than 100 jobs at Agriculture Victoria are set to be shed as part of state government cuts. Negotiations between the Community and Public Sector Union and AgVic on the proposed move are underway.
"AgVic is getting cuts with the current government," Ms Gubbins said.
"It's unfortunate because you have capacity and that capacity is being undermined. It's like a supply chain, if you take out of one area, it squeezes the supply chain in that area and it's also research development.
"The problem is if you don't have people coming through all the time, you start to lose that capacity."
She said the cuts would have a flow-on impact on an industry already struggling to attract prospective farmers.
"You won't have young graduates being mentored by older, more experienced researchers, you lose that capacity within the industry and that's what's going to happen," Ms Gubbins said.
"I think the fact that agriculture, or food and fibre hasn't portrayed itself properly has let the people who speak negatively about it speak loudly. I don't think the ones who have been positive about it have spoken out because they're humble.
"It's a great industry to be in, there are some very successful people in it and we have to start talking it up to attract people into it."
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