John Ralph Essay Competition 2014

Does the Australian agricultural sector need a common national brand to promote its products in international and domestic markets?

  • Two cash prizes: $5,000 for the Open category and $1,000 for the Student category
  • Incentives for professors and lecturers who involve their students
  • Prizes awarded at the 2014 Australian Agriculture Roundtable Conference

The John Ralph Essay Competition
2014 topic
Rules of entry
An opportunity for lecturers to involve students
Judging criteria
Entry form

The John Ralph Essay Competition

The Australian Farm Institute established the annual John Ralph Essay Competition in 2010 to honour John Ralph, who was the inaugural Chairman of the Australian Farm Institute. John made a major contribution to the Australian Farm Institute during his six year of chairmanship, and always insisted that comprehensive and objective research should be the basis for policy decisions, particularly for a sector such as agriculture, which has a wide diversity of different commodity groups and business arrangements. (More information about the history of the competition is available here.)

2014 topic

The topic for the 2014 John Ralph Essay Competition is:
Does the Australian agricultural sector need a common national brand to promote its products in international and domestic markets?

Businesses involved in Australian agriculture have traditionally been able to maintain international and domestic competitiveness by being very efficient and by minimising costs. However, over the past decade Australia has become a relatively high cost nation, with some of the world’s highest wage rates and energy costs. At the same time, major new agricultural exporters have emerged in South America and Eastern Europe that have much lower costs. The result has been a loss of competitiveness for Australian agriculture in both international and domestic markets, evidenced by the dramatic growth in the value of annual food imports into Australia over recent years. Competitor nations facing similar challenges, such as New Zealand, Canada and Denmark, have responded by developing a national brand for their farm commodities. These national brands emphasise the quality and safety of farm products from those nations, and are targeted at wealthier international and domestic consumers who are prepared to pay a premium for products that are perceived to be superior. Australia has not, to date, developed a national brand that can be used to promote the specific qualities and values that are inherent in Australian farm products. There are a growing number of people arguing that this needs to occur in order for Australian agricultural produce to remain competitive, and to capture higher-value markets.

Entrants in the 2014 John Ralph Essay Competition are asked to argue the case for or against the proposal to develop a common national brand that can be used to promote Australian agricultural products.

In addressing the topic, competition entrants will be expected to:
  • Clearly explain whether they do or don’t support the proposed development of a national brand, referencing relevant examples and/or case studies to support their arguments,
  • If they support the idea, explain how the national brand should be developed and promoted, and most importantly who should pay for it and how,
  • If they oppose the idea, explain what alternatives businesses in the sector, or the sector as a whole have to increase competitiveness,
  • In arguing either for or against the proposal, to have particular regard for the nature of Australian agricultural exports, and the structure of the food manufacturing and retail sectors in Australia.
  • Rely to the greatest degree possible on objective evidence, rather than just expressing an opinion.

Rules of entry

There are two categories for this competition, one for professionals and one for students.

The Open category is open to all non students, including postgraduate students, farmers, agribusiness participants, policy makers, consultants. researchers, etc..

The Student category is open to persons undertaking full-time undergraduate education. Proof of undergraduate enrolment status for 2014 will be required for entrants in this category.

Professors, lecturers and course coordinators are encouraged to support this competition by including the essay topic in their undergraduate course program.

A judging panel consisting of the Chairman of the Institute Board, the Institute CEO and the Chair of the Institute's Research Advisory Committee will have the task of judging the competition and selecting the two winning entries. These will be published (along with a number of other papers on the same topic) in the Summer 2014 edition of the Farm Policy Journal, to be released in December, 2014.

Entries must be between 1,500 to 4,500 words in length, and material beyond the 4,500 limit (excluding reference list) will not be considered by judges.

The essay is expected to present the author's point of view based on sound and well-argued reasoning. A scientific style (method, quotes, references and reference list) is not compulsory, but important references should be cited. The essay should be written in a style suitable for an audience that has some familiarity with the topic, but does not have a great depth of technical knowledge about the issue.

Entries should be submitted in electronic format (.doc or .docx for Windows), by Friday 19 September 2014.

Professors and lecturers interested in having their student participate have to register as soon as possible.


The winner of the Professional category of the John Ralph Essay contest will receive a cash prize of $5000 and the winner of the student category will receive a cash prize of $1000.

Both winners will also receive a one year's membership of the Australian Farm Institute (valued at $297) and complementary attendance at the Australian Agriculture Roundtable Conference.

An opportunity for lecturers to involve students

Professors and lecturers are encouraged to participate by encouraging their student to enter this competition. The Australian Farm Institute has established this essay competition to create discussion and debate on current agriculture sector topics, and to encourage students and the wider community to engage in issues of strategic importance to the future of the sector.

Any professor or lecturers interested in having their students participate are invited to include the competition topic in their students' assessment tasks, and to enter some or al of the resulting essays in the competition.

Professors and lecturers who have at least three students who enter the competition will be offered:

  • One year’s free subscription to the Farm Policy Journal
  • One hardcopy of an Institute research report of their choice.

Judging criteria

Entries will be judged using the following criteria;

  • Completeness: entries must address all the issues raised in the competition topic;
  • Originality: entries should go beyond just repeating 'common' beliefs, and carefully and objectively examine the question posed by the topic;
  • Comprehensiveness: entries should canvass the full extent of the issue, and carefully consider the positives and negatives arising from any proposed 'solution';
  • Practicality: any proposals advanced to resolve the issues raised in the competition topic will need to find the right balance between being bold and practical – there should be a reasonable chance proposals will be adopted.
  • Clarity: entries should be written in clear, jargon-free language so that it is easily read and understood.

Entry form

Entries have now closed.
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