Canola flower. Location: Österlen, Skåne (Southern Sweden)
Photo: Svenska Institutet
Agriculture & Food Processing
Both the agricultural sector and food processing industries are of significant value in Sweden and Australia’s economies. Sweden is very technologically advanced when it comes to food processing equipment.
Farming has historically played a major role in Sweden. The peak year was in 1932 when there were a grand total of 428,600 farms around the country; this number has since reduced by 83% to leave 71,100 farms in 2010. The area of arable, permanent grassland and meadows reflects this from peaking in 1919 at 3.8 million hectares compared to 2.6 million hectares in 2012; keeping in mind that farms with over 100 hectares have increased enabled through mechanization while those with less area have decreased due to inefficiency.
177,000 people worked in the agricultural sector in 2010 with 40% women and 60% men – a proportion that has remained relatively constant throughout Sweden’s history. Today the dominating crops to harvest are cereal grains (wheat, oats, rye and barley), ley grasslands for fodder, and oil (rape and flax). By 2012 Sweden had 1.6 million cattle, 1.4 million pigs, and 0.6 million sheep. Milk production was 2,861 tonnes in 2012.
As of 2012, Australia had about 134,000 farms, majority family owned and operated; providing food-affiliated employment for 1.6 million people and 12% contribution to Australia’s GDP. In comparison, agriculture represented about 0,5% of Sweden’s GDP during year 2008.
The food manufacturing industry is one of the largest manufacturing industries in both Sweden and Australia based on production value. There are about 3000 food processing companies within Sweden’s food processing industry that can be divided into15 different sectors. The three largest sectors based on the number of employees (together they make up half of the total number of employees in the industry) are the meat and deli, the dairy, and the baking and confectionery sectors.
In comparison, Australia had 5139 food processing companies as of 2009-10. The meat sector is the largest one, followed by beverages, dairy, confectionery and sugar, fruit and vegetables and last bakery. Large multinational food manufacturers present in both Australia and Sweden with local production factories are Nestlé and Kraft Foods.
The market for food processing equipment throughout Sweden’s history is internationally recognized for quality, creativity and advanced technological development. The Swedish food industry is highly advanced and the market for functional foods is increasing. Sweden has leading players in dairy and beverage processing, coffee roasting, fish and meat processing, and milling and bakery. In Sweden, 43% of food processing companies are a “one-man-show”, so collectively as a unit, these small companies make up the industry’s largest market share. Processed food exports have increased dramatically since Sweden joined the EU in 1995 as trade barriers were reduced, foreign ownership of Swedish food processing companies has increased, and international corporations have set up subsidiaries in Sweden to reach the Nordic market.
Food and beverage manufacturing stood for the employment of 225,100 people in Australia in 2012-13 which is 24% of total employment within the manufacturing industry. For the same year, to offer an idea of the industry’s size, 24.4 billion AUD of industry value added came from the food, beverage and tobacco processing industry. This is more than the value added by the machinery and equipment sector (21.8 billion AUD) and the petroleum, coal, chemical and rubber product sector (19.2 billion AUD).
One clear characteristic that is shared between the Swedish and Australian markets for agricultural products and processed food is the effect of ongoing urbanization – there is a growing trend for convenience and fresh, ready-to-go products.