Australia has key role to play in food security: Agriculture Minister

Posted by Isobel Drake on 3rd February 2009

Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Tony Burke addressed a high-level meeting on global food security in Madrid last week, raising free trade and scientific research as key issues.

Australia was among more than 120 countries to participate in the meeting, which was convened by Spain and the United Nations. It included representatives of international agencies belonging to the UN Secretary-General’s High-Level Task Force on the Global Food Security Crisis, leaders of think tanks, non-government organisations and the private sector.

The meeting saw chiefs of key international agencies pledge to step up their commitments against hunger and malnutrition.

Minister Burke told the meeting that trade liberalisation would free up the movement of food across the world and help to feed vulnerable populations. He said it was the worst time for decisions such as the European Union moving to reintroduce dairy subsidies, one of many signs that some areas are now contemplating the idea of “protectionism”.

“We need to remember that the food crisis, the global financial crisis and climate change are all interrelated,” he said. “Climate change presents a significant risk to the sustainability of the world’s agricultural production, which will have implications for global peace and prosperity.”

“We face the challenge of improving food security, while at the same time reducing the emissions profile of agriculture,” Minister Burke added. “Research and development will be critical. There are also many opportunities to improve wealth and production methods through trade.”

“We welcomed the commitment of leaders of the G20 last year to conclude the Doha negotiations. But unfortunately we are still not there. For example, the recent introduction of export subsidies for dairy could not have come at a worse time and is not in anyone’s long-term interests.”

“To deny farmers access to these benefits [by failing to pursue trade liberalisation] can lock them into a cycle of poverty,” Mr Burke concluded. “Australia has been adapting to the challenges of farming in a dry, fragile environment and we are pleased to be part of the global solution in guaranteeing food security.”