AFGC, Growcom continue push for national food policy

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 10th December 2009

A greater focus on food security in Australia from both sides of politics has been welcomed by Australia’s leading organisation representing food and grocery manufacturing, the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC), but they are hoping it will be more than just a token gesture.

The Federal Government has acknowledged the Coalition’s addition of food security to Shadow Agriculture Minister John Cobb’s portfolio, with the Government highlighting the important synergy between food security and climate change.

AFGC Chief Executive Kate Carnell said having agreement from both parties on this issue was vital to safeguarding the future of Australia’s food manufacturing industry.

“But the major issue at this stage is that neither has a food policy,” Ms Carnell said. “Industry is now looking forward to having bipartisan support for a National Food and Grocery Agenda.”

The industry representative said the strategy must include:
· Increasing farm production,
· Continuous improvements in food safety,
· A consistent, national, transparent regulatory framework,
· An environmentally sustainable food chain – with a focus on better packaging, efficient use of water, minimising food waste and energy use,
· A focus on improving export capacity, and
· An efficient transport system with better infrastructure and consistent rules and regulations.

“Having this strategy in place is essential so that Australia’s $100 billion industry and the 315,000 people who work in it have a secure future,” Ms Carnell said.

Horticulture body Growcom echoed similar sentiments, maintaining that a national policy approach was necessary because of the urgent need to adequately secure land, water, energy, infrastructure and labour to meet the food requirements of the world in the face of population growth, rapid urbanisation and climate change challenges.

“The United Nations’ Food and Agricultural Organization has forecast food production will have to increase by 70 per cent in the next 40 years to feed the world’s growing population,” Chief Advocate Rachel Mackenzie noted. “The FAO is calling on governments, including Australia’s governments, to ensure that agriculture became more productive in terms of yield growth and improved cropping intensity – and that requires significant investment and long term planning.”

“Clearly, we have the brainpower, the land and the experience in this country to meet the challenges we face to provide the food and fibre we will need for an increased population here and overseas,” she added. “We now just need the political willpower from all tiers of government to plan and invest in how we will meet these challenges in the years ahead.”