Alarm bells around food price increases are rising, but governments are not taking any notice, according to the Speak Up Campaign.
Its chair Lachlan Marshall said a report last week from the United Nations Food Agency needs to be taken seriously by governments, but instead they seem to have the blinkers on.
“When electricity prices started rising, governments were too slow to act. By the time policies were put in place to curb the massive increases, they had gone too far for substantial remedial action.
“It appears the same thing is likely to happen with food prices,” Mr Marshall said.
Last week’s United Nations report stated world food prices had hit their highest level since 2014. It came at the same time as an Australian report predicted a spike in fruit and vegetable prices of up to 29 per cent following labour shortages.
Mr Lachlan said these price hikes would be exacerbated by an inability to grow food due to poor water policy and management.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the fragile nature of our food supplies,” he said. “Australia has been forced to import more dairy products and wheat, and with zero water allocations there was virtually no Australian rice crop last year and as a result we exhausted domestically grown rice.
“Australian families need to understand that their budgets will be under increased strain from staple food prices if governments do not get proactive and start doing more to support food production.”
Mr Marshall said in southern NSW and northern Victoria our forefathers built the world’s best gravity feed irrigation systems that are close to the dams for maximum efficiency. But unfortunately, as too often happens, politics took over.
“A massive campaign in South Australia with a political agenda convinced our politicians to try and turn the once estuarine lakes at the end of the Murray into a freshwater system. As a result we are now sending massive quantities of water downstream, causing significant environmental damage along the way.
“We have also sacrificed water reliability in our food bowl, leading to many farmers walking off the land and others unable to produce as much food for Australian and international consumption.
“As we discovered during a visit to the region last week by federal Water Minister Keith Pitt and his entourage, there is no appetite for significant change to water policy. I have not doubt Mr Pitt and his colleagues are afraid of the political damage if they implement common-sense legislative change.
“So Aussie families will continue to be hit with higher prices for their fresh and staple foods, which is unfortunate and unnecessary, but when political goals over-rules smart decision-making, that is the consequence,” Mr Marshall said.