Growcom raises Australian food security concerns
Queensland's main horticultural organisation Growcom has launched a food security report highlighting the country's rising import trends and the need for productivity improvement.
Growcom CEO Alex Livingstone released the report in Brisbane, pointing out most Australians weren't aware 34% of fruit and 19% of vegetables were imported.
"In dollar terms, Australia imports a greater value of processed fruit and vegetables than we export and the gap has been steadily widening in the past decade. While we still export more fresh or chilled vegetables, fruit and nuts than we import, the gap has been significantly narrowing in the past decade," he said.
"Successive governments have loudly proclaimed the success of Australian agricultural exports as a sign there are no threats to Australian food security.
"However, the figures used to support these arguments are biased by a small number of heavily export-focused industries (meat and grains). The picture when it comes to consumption and trade data for horticulture is vastly different and reflects the severe economic and regulatory pressures on the industry."
He said food security should not just be measured by how much food is exported but how much is imported, considering some imports may not continue to be so cheap as the global population rises.
"In preparing our report on food security from the horticulture industry’s perspective, we surveyed stakeholders in the horticulture supply chain and supporting industries, including growers, research and development agencies, retailers, processors, policy makers, planners, inputs companies, industry bodies and distribution companies," he said.
"Most groups thought that current government policy settings were inadequate and called for an integrated approach to food security within a Food Security Agency as part of the federal agriculture portfolio to identify and reduce regulatory costs and foster a more conducive economic environment that promoted research and development and innovation.
"The challenge to feed more people with the same or less land and water will also require an increase in research and development funding from both private and public sources to at least 1970s levels of five per cent of the gross value of agricultural production."