NFF warns of food scarcity

Posted by Nicole Eckersley on 13th July 2010

National Farmers’ Federation President David Crombie today warned that food scarcity is a reality that all Australians will need to face.

“Australians need to brace for a future of higher prices for life’s essentials. It’s an inevitable consequence of more mouths to feed and less food to go around,” he said.

“Food scarcity is a reality our international counterparts are acutely attuned to. Unlike us, many nations are already going without and are now investing heavily in agricultural research. Some are buying farms in Australia to secure future food supply. And we’ve seen food shortages precipitate riots in poorer countries where they cannot afford higher prices… their plight can only deepen.”

“In Australia, we are blessed with agricultural production the envy of the world. Our farms supply around 93% of domestic demand and we export over 60% of everything we grow to customers who pay a premium for our high quality, reliable and sustainable produce.

“It’s something we have taken for granted in Australia but I fear not for much longer. While we are likely to remain broadly self-sufficient, we are not isolated from global prices. In fact, Aussie families should be prepared for much higher prices at the checkout.

“As we career towards 36 million people by 2050, globally some 9 billion people will be crying out for more food. In fact, the United Nations tells us that farmers need to produce 70% more food over the next 40 years just to keep pace with population growth.

“To put this in perspective, that is more food than has been produced over the entire course of human history. Australians are ambivalent about the notion of ‘food security’. I assume this apathy is based on the notion that it’s a problem somewhere else in the world, but not for us. I disagree.

“Unless we, as a nation, get serious about our place in the world and start planning for the inevitable food squeeze, we will suffer. As if declining arable lands, droughts, changing diets, biofuels and climate change are not threatening enough, population explosion will put even greater pressure on our ability to meet the need for food and fibre.”

Australia’s food security will be a featured topic at the upcoming NFF 2010 National Congress, in Melbourne over 6-7 September, with talks from Andrew Hewitt of Oxfam Australia, Askin Morrison of Bain and Company and Igal Aisenberg, CEO of irrigation innovator Netafim.