Australia's food security inquiry, report released

By Carolyn Jackson
Monday, 11 December, 2023

Australia's food security inquiry, report released

The Australian parliament has released the Australian Food Story: Feeding the Nation and Beyond report after its year-long inquiry into food security in Australia.

The inquiry, which the House Standing Committee on Agriculture commenced back in October 2022, examined ways to strengthen and safeguard Australia’s food security, focusing on production, supply chains and key inputs, as well as climate change, biosecurity and food insecurity.

Over the course of the inquiry, the Committee (chaired by Meryl Swanson MP) held 24 public hearings, visited numerous sites around Australia, and received 188 written submissions from individuals, industry and community groups and government bodies.

Some of the 35 recommendations included in the report were:

  • creating a comprehensive National Food Plan
  • appointing a Minister for Food
  • establishing a National Food Council
  • developing a National Food Supply Chain Map.

The Committee also recommended measures to facilitate innovation in the production of food, eliminate food waste, and improve sustainability and resilience in the food supply chain.

Australia is currently a food secure nation, which produces more than it consumes, but, according to the report, there are food production challenges which could be addressed further to provide improved food security. For example it was reported that Australia’s dairy industry produced around 8.5 billion litres of milk in 2021–22, which was the lowest figure since 1996–97. Strategies for reinvigorating the declining production in the Australian dairy sector as well as addressing the reliance on imports in the seafood sector are some of the suggestions for the National Food Plan.

With around $36.6bn of food lost or wasted in Australia each year — 17% in processing — the report included discussion about how to eliminate this waste as a method to improve food security. The interrelationship between food, packaging and the environment is described as complex but suggestions ranged from addressing issues with gaps in the cold chain to improving circular economy methods and more education about “best before” dates to reduce food waste. Fight Food Waste Limited even proposed that best before dates should be removed where possible.

AFGC CEO Tanya Barden said: “Having provided a submission and testified publicly, as well as numerous discussions with each of the committee members, the AFGC is pleased to see many of our suggestions put forward as recommendations by the Committee.”

Barden said many of the recommendations align with the positions outlined in the AFGC’s report Sustaining Australia: Food and Grocery Manufacturing 2030.

Swanson said, “Food security is not something that any of us can take for granted. COVID-19, floods, the effects of the war in Ukraine, and outbreaks of Foot and Mouth Disease and Lumpy Skin Disease in Indonesia have highlighted risks to our food system. Systemic change is required so that all Australians, and those that depend on Australian food production, will be food secure. Consultation, cooperation, coordination and innovation are the keys to food security.”

All the key recommendations from this report will be under further discussion in the weeks and months to come.

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