Is Australia’s food supply secure during the coronavirus crisis?

Drought and the coronavirus have raised concerns about Australian food security.

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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    COMMENTS

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    Chris B T
    17th Apr 2020
    1:31pm
    The question should be who owns the Farms and who has Access to the Produce, Especially now.
    Will Australians have Priority or Other Countries.We can have what is not required/suitable for there consumption.
    Just because we Produce most of our Produce, not being Tested In Troubled Times to see who comes First.
    Boarders are closed to Travellers Not Freight ie Air and Sea are still operating.
    Incognito
    17th Apr 2020
    3:39pm
    We need to buy back farms and be truly 100% Australian owned farms. It is a good time to discover Australian grown and made instead of cheap imported foods. Does not make sense, we export the food and buy it back. Buy locally if you can, farmers markets and ask your local supermarket to buy in local.
    apache
    17th Apr 2020
    5:11pm
    I agree with you Incognito. The importing of produce that can be grown here is ridiculous and creates the danger of importing pest and diseases thus ruining Australia's "clean and green" rating. Our farmers produce A1 quality food and I am quite happy to pay a little more to buy Australian fruit, vegs or whatever. Because of the great Murray Darling Basin Plan rice growers in my area were allocated water that would only allow them to grow a fraction of their previous crops thus Sun Wise Rice had to import rice . Give the farmers water and we would not have to import wheat, rice, pork,etc etc. And also stop selling Australia off to overseas companies etc.!!!
    Eddy
    18th Apr 2020
    10:58pm
    Be careful Incognito and apache, you are advocating similar to Rex O'Conner. Poor Rex attempted to get an overseas loan of $4 billion to 'buy back the farm'. One of the primary factors that justified the Fraser led opposition to deny the Labor government supply and led to the dismissal of the Whitlam government in 1975. If only we had listened to Rex, what would our agricultural sector look like now.
    BrianP
    17th Apr 2020
    3:56pm
    The content of this article fails to take account of the many far reaching threats to Australia's food supply and indeed our economy as a whole to make it worthy of discussion.

    You could for example look at the great number of companies here now owned by foreign interests. Also the huge amount of farming land not owned by Australians. Or the loss of tax not paid by overseas companies operating here. Or the loss of control of what foreign owned companies are doing with the products they make. Or how the foreign acquisitions of land and business here are putting our own farmers and employers out of business.

    All this and more has been going on for a long time and it is going to take a major shift in government styles and policies to save us from losing control of major parts of our economy to foreign interests. Perhaps if you include some of these next time our readers might take more interest.
    Tanker
    17th Apr 2020
    4:41pm
    The fact is that any Australian owned company, farm or whatever that has been sold into foreign ownership is the result of Australia being essentially a capitalist economy.
    If an owner wants to sell their property, or company, they expect to be able to accept the highest price offered. In this country the only way the government can prevent the owner getting that best price is if it is judged that the sale is not in the National Interest.
    While I agree with much that has been said it would take a huge change in our approach to our economy to rectify the situation. An LNP government would never take that step and the IPA wouldn't let them.
    Tanker
    17th Apr 2020
    4:41pm
    The fact is that any Australian owned company, farm or whatever that has been sold into foreign ownership is the result of Australia being essentially a capitalist economy.
    If an owner wants to sell their property, or company, they expect to be able to accept the highest price offered. In this country the only way the government can prevent the owner getting that best price is if it is judged that the sale is not in the National Interest.
    While I agree with much that has been said it would take a huge change in our approach to our economy to rectify the situation. An LNP government would never take that step and the IPA wouldn't let them.
    Mondo
    17th Apr 2020
    6:27pm
    I think the supply of fresh good quality food during the crisis has been amazing considering the preceding drought and bush fires. Its surprising though that while we have heard complaints about export markets being closed off we have not seen a resultant ample supply on the domestic market of those products especially seafood but both meat and dairy are exported to Asia and both have been in relatively short supply. It's unfortunate that both the drought and government intervention resulted in a shortage of our rice crop just when we needed it. It would be great to see more local crop diversification and value adding of our raw materials, there's nothing more reassuring than seeing Made in Australia on a food label and I am happy to pay a premium for the pleasure.
    We need to change the tax system to encourage more local savings and investment in our own agriculture, food and others industries. Raise the GST to pay for it if need be but lets have some control over our own health and future destiny. We need to stop relying on the savings of Chinese peasants to run our industries and pay for our 'import' lifestyle. We were a colony 230 years ago it's about time we changed our mindset from a colony economy as a supplier of only raw materials from overseas owned farm, holes in the ground and tax evasion for overseas value adding profit-making and control.
    Aussie focussed
    17th Apr 2020
    6:31pm
    Well said and written Brian P. I cannot agree with you more and appreciate what you have said and how you have said it. You are obviously not a politician :) It is the basics that we should be scared of, our two major political parties and their gross acceptance of monies from overseas governments i.e. chinese companies that is very concerning. This country is not preparing for the future and our politicians take the pay every week but do not work for it.
    Horace Cope
    17th Apr 2020
    4:42pm
    "Are you concerned about Australia’s food supply? Have you noticed items starting to reappear on supermarket shelves?"

    I note the pessimists went straight into doom and gloom. I'm not concerned about our food supply. I don't know what the 11% is that we import but I'm sure we can live without it for a time. To those who decry foreign ownership of farms, just remember that the foreigners can't take the farm away and exports can be stopped by the government with a stroke of the pen. Yes, items are re-appearing and limits are being put in place to stop panic buying. As well as that, the overseas buyers have been stopped from sending our products overseas by the container load. I'm happy and confident.
    Aussie focussed
    17th Apr 2020
    6:38pm
    Horace when did the Government stop the Greenland Group and their buying up of masks, gowns, gloves etc., for sending BACK to china or TO china? I didn't read about it. I just went shopping for FLOUR, yes NONE. still no RICE, still no TOILET PAPER? We purchased 12 months of the products in 3 months?!!! So 12 months of that food and 'paper' was held in storage and was consumed ........... give us a break.How much of these foods are being shipped in containers. So foreigners can't take the farm......... the huge cotton farm that can hold more water than sydney harbour is OWNED by a chinese company, but it still hasn't met all criteria sorry but forget what that was. Legally they had to comply, it has been passed and yet is still owned by that chinese company. Action?! Take it away..... it still hasn't been done, you don't need the farm if you control the water and that determines what you can grow. So now we have huge vineyards owned by chinese companies growing their own grapes, making wine in Australia, calling it Australian wine and competing with Australian growers and wineries, BUT the chinese company can use O/S labour, get better tax breaks in Aust., and be treated better in china........ fair?!!!
    Mondo
    17th Apr 2020
    11:26pm
    There is a very simple answer if only our political leaders and trade negotiators had the guts: reciprocity, allow any nation to do to us, (eg buy land, export our products, own water etc) only what we are allowed to do to or in their country. If we can't buy land or the crown jewels of Chinese industry then nor should they be allowed to do so here and the same with any other country. If they don't believe in free trade and investment then don't allow them to exploit us. We need a tax policy that encourages savings and investment so that Australians own more of Australia and imports fewer second grade goods. We should no longer be a colony and a hole in the ground to anyone.
    tterrypu
    17th Apr 2020
    5:38pm
    Why even bring this up if we only consume 30% of what we produce. What a waste of time.
    Mondo
    17th Apr 2020
    11:28pm
    You are assuming that all products are interchangeable and that we have control over all the products we produce.
    cupoftea
    17th Apr 2020
    5:48pm
    Just let this country's farmers farm give them the water that is out of their reach because of the foreign owned cotton and almond farms can pay a top price and I remember watching a program from the USA regarding more water in 1 day is sold in Australia then the USA its a f.cking joke
    Sundays
    17th Apr 2020
    6:35pm
    Agree, access to water rights is a major ongoing issue
    Aussie focussed
    17th Apr 2020
    6:28pm
    Just check out RICE. Our biggest customer is yes CHINA. Selling food to china is like selling water to someone in the desert. china caused this corona virus so china should be charged to pay us back for our lost superannuation, our lost jobs, our lost savings, our self isolation pressures china should pay. they exported the virus to the world and nothing is being said. What is part owned by china that is NOT said?!! What private Australian companies are part owned or pumped with chinese funds to compete with locally owned 100% Australian, nothing is said about that. E.G> the price of housing is higher because of chinese buyers, often said to be 10% wouldn't that cause prices to be higher for Australian buyers?!!
    inextratime
    17th Apr 2020
    8:11pm
    The source of the Corona virus IS being investigated by several agencies including Australia. But even if China is found guilty of creating the pandemic and not warning the world of the impending horror show, do not expect
    China to admit blame and as for compensation, forget it.
    tterrypu
    17th Apr 2020
    8:45pm
    From my research it shows that 11% of agricultural land is owned by foreigners and a majority of that is by the UK. What should be legislated for is that Australians have first choice of the produce from those properties. To go further, every Australian property and company must be at least 51% Australian owned. This also can be legislated for. Many other countries have the same rules and regulations and seems to work for them
    Mondo
    17th Apr 2020
    11:32pm
    You've changes your mind in a few hours. In your post above you said the article was a waste of time!
    Aussie focussed
    19th Apr 2020
    8:45pm
    Yes Spartan, 11% doesnt sound like a lot hey?!! BUT how much land in Australia is 'arable' or useful?!!!!!!!!!! I am pretty sure that much less than 25% is ARABLE so 11% of the landmass is pretty high. What is not explained is how much is owned by a minority of foreigners so an Australian company that is 51% owned AND therefore 49% foreign financed OWNS the property!!! Ring your local Foreign oooops your Australian federal politician and ask the tricky question ......... who do you support Australian taxpaying owned company or foreign tax dodging co.?! Good luck
    Priscilla
    17th Apr 2020
    9:13pm
    I am very concerned about Australia's food supply after seeing a programme where farmers cannot access water for their crops, even the water runs through their property as this water is sold to the highest bidder (easy to guess who that is). It is disgusting to see how low this government will go for a dollar, even depriving their own of water. This is not the first such problem I have seen with a 100 year lease given to sell water to the Chinese whilst farmers are unable to even turn on a tap. Shame on you!!!
    Darts44
    18th Apr 2020
    6:15am
    On a practical note:
    If there is nobody to pick up the apples in Tasmania, you are no going to have any on your table.
    If there is not transportation to the main land, still no apples on your table.
    If there is no distribution to the shops, still no apples on your table.
    Think about it!
    floss
    18th Apr 2020
    12:08pm
    YES. due to the fact our stupid bloody Government has allowed our irrigation water to be sold to the highest bidder and they are not always Australian. Yes BrianP you are one of the few that understand what is happening in Australia at this time,i am sure our P.M. HAS NOT GOT A CLUE . The so called Country party has sold out the Family farmer big time.
    floss
    18th Apr 2020
    12:17pm
    HORAC COPE is is quiet clear you have no idea as to what is happening to Family farmers in Australia who i might add are the back bone of food production in this country . Your mob will eventually bring Australia down to a third world country.
    Franky
    19th Apr 2020
    10:57am
    In the sense of food security we are still the lucky country. I just hope that we come to our senses and focus on the 'clean green' image instead of following down the path of the US where produce is so adulterated with chemicals and GMO that it becomes hazardous to our health. With declining health world wide due to chemicals and pollution organic food will be increasingly sought after. The covid19 virus clearly shows us how important health is. The vast majority of those dying from the virus have a compromised immune system due to unhealthy eating and lifestyle habits.
    Incognito
    19th Apr 2020
    1:09pm
    I agree with you but sadly GMO is already here, canola comes to mind. Also chemicals have been used for a very long time, we need more biodynamic growing.We need to bring back small scale farming and diversity of crops. We are killing the soil and killing people, insects and animals with the use of insecticides and pesticides. This is effecting the health of people and the earth. Unfortunately people do not want to pay extra for organic even if they can afford to, they will spend a fortune on hairdos, holidays and phone plans but went it comes to food they want the cheapest. We all need to take our own health in our hands and do want we can to be healthy but some people have not received that memo or choose to ignore the advice, packaged food is the number one that you need to start getting rid of, it is dead food and making big corporations richer at the cost of human health. More community gardens need to be established too, there should be one in every town and/or suburb.Yes the virus gets a hold on those who are obese and unhealthy, that is why USA has such high numbers they have a lot of sick overweight people and most are on at least one medication.
    Incognito
    19th Apr 2020
    1:11pm
    Franky, you might enjoy watching the film 2040 by Damon Gameu, very inspiring about the positive changes we can make to the planet and for all humans to live better and healthier.
    Darts44
    22nd Apr 2020
    6:58am
    Yesterday, I came back from shopping for fresch vegies .
    1 onion, 2 bananas, 1/2 cauliflower, 1 Lebanese cucumber, 2 tomatoes.
    Time to take my multi vitamine to fend off the scurvy.
    I still feel very lucky to have food.
    Spare some thought for people in Africa and South America, where more people will die from
    starvation that the virus
    Incognito
    22nd Apr 2020
    2:25pm
    That amount would only last me a day, my fridge is full of fresh veggies, yes we are so lucky and I feel grateful my organic supplier is still operating, though a few thing have gone up in price but not much.
    Spoke to the local IGA manager the other day to ask why avocados were 4.99 each! I asked why Coles, Woolies and Aldis can sell for $2 sometimes less. So he tells me it is because the bigger chains buy the whole farm before they are even ready for picking and also often there is a bidding war on trucks of produce for everyone else and depends on how many are there bidding at the time and how much there is available.
    Pays to buy direct from farmers markets if you can.


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