No fears for Australian food security
With some supermarket shelves still sitting empty, and the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19’s continuing to cause collective anxiety and bulk purchasing of essentials, it’s no surprise that many Australians are worried about food security. After all, the coronavirus has come hot on the heels of a shocking summer of drought, floods and bushfires – all of which have had a devastating impact on many food producers across Eastern Australia.
But the latest report by Australia’s Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Science (ABARES) has confirmed that Australia has one of the most secure food supplies in the world and is not at risk because of COVID-19.
In fact, Australia ranks in the top 10% of countries under the Global Food Security Index defined by the World Food Summit. The index measures 34 criteria covering affordability, availability, quality and safety.
“Australia will always have enough food,” says Minister for Agriculture, Drought and Emergency Management David Littleproud. “We produce far more food than we consume. COVID-19 does not change that.”
Australia currently exports around 70% of our agricultural production. Of course, we don’t produce everything we like to eat, and so imports account for around 11% of food consumption by value. These imports provide access to manufactured food and drinks and different varieties of some items as well as out-of-season fresh produce.
While a surge in demand had an impact on the availability of some of our favourite products on supermarket shelves, the ABARES report states that the current disruption in the supply of some goods is temporary and not an indication that we’re running out of food. Rather, it’s a result of logistics taking time to adapt to the large unexpected surge in purchasing.
“Shoppers were stockpiling and supply chains had to adjust,” Littleproud says. “This is not an indication of food shortages.”
ABARES analysis indicates that the purchasing surge already appears to be abating, and supply chains are adapting. Panic buying and stockpiling of staple goods, such as rice and pasta, is likely to be balanced over time by a reduction in future purchases.
“I’m glad to see the disruption is abating and the ABARES report leaves no room for alarm,” Littleproud says. “Ensuring Australia’s food security is one of the government’s top priorities. It’s a key part of $320 billion of measures to deal with the impacts of COVID-19.
“Amid measures to curb the spread of this virus, we’ve made sure getting food on the table remains an essential service. We’ve implemented strategies that include maintaining agriculture service and supply lines, extending work visas and providing air freight support.”
According to ABARES, the seasonal outlook for the autumn of 2020 is positive, providing the basis of a recovery in Australian crop production and allowing for the rebuilding of sheep flocks and cattle herds.
“Even through drought and bushfires, the value of Australia’s agriculture continues to grow because of our farming expertise and resilience,” Littleproud says. “We’ll continue working with the agricultural sector to carry on with the job of feeding Australia.”