Is Australia’s food supply secure?

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken Australia and the world by surprise. Coming after severe drought conditions in eastern Australia, concerns have been raised about Australian food security.

According to a report released by the federal government’s agriculture forecaster, the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) on Friday, these concerns are misplaced.

Australia produces much more food than it can consume, with 70 per cent of agricultural produce exported.

“The vast majority of our food is produced here in Australia, and domestic production more than meets our needs even during drought years,” the report says.

While Australia does not produce everything that people choose to eat, according to the report, imports account for only 11 per cent of food consumption.

“These imports provide access to manufactured food and beverages, different varieties of some items, and out of season fresh produce,” according to the report.

“Disruptions to international supply chains by COVID-19 (or other causes) are unlikely, but could result in temporary shortages of some imported products, restricting consumer choices in a similar way to how a cyclone might disrupt the domestic supply of bananas for a time.

“Potential disruptions to these imports would be unlikely to have any impact on Australian food security – in terms of ensuring a sufficient supply of healthy and nutritious food – although higher prices or limited availability of specific products may disappoint or inconvenience some consumers.”

While consumers have noticed many items missing from their supermarket shelves, this has less to do with supply and more to do with delivery.

“The purchasing surge already appears to be abating, and supply chains are adapting,” the report explains.

“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.”

Read the full ABARES report.

Are you concerned about Australia’s food supply? Have you noticed items starting to reappear on supermarket shelves?

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