The importance of food security in Australia has been highlighted again during a National Rural Health Alliance ‘virtual conversation’.
The conversation discussed the need to ensure we have sufficient, affordable and nutritious food if we want healthy rural communities.
Speak Up Campaign chair Shelley Scoullar said Australia’s food security had been raised numerous times before and during the COVID-19 crisis but had not been treated seriously by some governments and advocacy organisations.
“The Health Alliance discussion this week acknowledged that while Australia is a food secure nation as a whole, there are many parts of the community who do not have access to high quality food. This is especially a problem in remote areas.
“If we want to improve our food security we need to ensure it can be grown in Australia. As we work through Coronavirus, and beyond, we must stop our increasing reliance on imported food.
“Authorities keep telling us we grow more than enough food for our nation, yet it is widely agreed that we will run out of domestic rice supplies by the end of the year.
“This shortage could be easily avoided if Governments developed effective policies that supported rice growers. The same can be said for dairy products – we are importing more of these because we do not have the right policy mix, especially around water management, to support our dairy farmers,” Mrs Scoullar said.
She said for Australia to retain its sovereignty around food production and security it is essential that we review water management policies and take proactive steps to stop the waste which has been occurring.
“Under the present situation we are not maximising this precious resource. We need sensible, balanced policy that equitably shares our water to protect the environment and support food production. Instead, it flows over the banks causing environmental damage when we try to force too much down the river, we allow massive evaporation from large shallow lakes, and we pour huge quantities of fresh water out into the ocean.
“Speak Up would like our Federal Government to acknowledge the mistakes that have been made and work with local communities to develop balanced solutions.
“If we do this Australia’s food security can be protected and we will see more locally grown products on our supermarket shelves. And if we increase supply we can also help to keep food prices down, and therefore more affordable in city and rural areas.
“It shouldn’t be too hard to achieve, which is why it is so disappointing that governments keep avoiding the changes that are needed,” Mrs Scoullar said.