19 March 2011

Growers Fear for Australian Food Security

Echoes the concern of The Food Forest's Graham Brookman and a similar article about Selling Off The Farm last November...

Reposted in full from Adelaide Now, March 2011

'A farmers body said Australia needs to protect produce and start a national food security body.

The assessment of Australia's horticulture industry has been delivered in a report by Queensland-based Growcom.

Chief executive Alex Livingstone said yesterday there was a misconception that Australia's food supply was secure because 60 per cent of its agricultural production was exported.

"The devil is in the detail," Mr Livingstone said. "Most of the exports are beef and grain. Australia is actually a net importer of horticulture produce. The trend is for that trade imbalance to rise."

Mr Livingston said fruit and vegetable imports could dry up as the world population rocketed to nine billion by 2050.

The report said land availability was a major threat to horticulture in Australia.

There were particular concerns over urban sprawl, coal seam gas mining and foreign governments buying up Australian farmland to secure their own food security.

Mr Livingston said not enough was being done to protect prime agricultural land from mining interests.

"The industries need to co-exist, but there is a difference between open cut ... where land can be rehabilitated," he said.

"Of more significant danger is coal seam gas extraction where the results are unknown ... we do know it will affect the water tables under a lot of agricultural land (like) the Great Artesian Basin. Given the dangers associated and the lack of science around the impacts, we would say that should be put on hold."

The report said other factors affecting horticulture production included climate change, decline in farm profitability, decline in research and development, red tape and supply interruptions from natural disasters.

The report's major recommendation was for the Federal Government to set up a national food security agency.

"The other thing this agency would need to do is to deal with the predatory end of the retail market," Mr Livingston said. "All the power in the supply chain resides at the retail end."'

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