EDITORIAL: Why not export massive food surplus to poverty-stricken countries?

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 18th November 2011

Australia is facing a huge glut of potatoes. Prices for potatoes for the Australian domestic market will soon drop below  farm production costs. Greengrocers and supermarkets are acquiring potatoes at bargain prices.

We are constantly reminded by the Australian Government and its consultant experts that the world is running out of food. They tell us that Australia needs to produce more food for the impending famine faced by the world.

Yet, we already have the scenario of many countries currently facing dire famine while at the same time Australia has an over-production problem in potatoes.  Australian farmers are threatening to plough their surplus into the ground or just simply leave the potatoes to rot!

If the Australian Government has a genuine belief in food security for the world’s poorest, then maybe it is time for greater efforts to be made to help fill the food gap.  Australian government agencies such as AusAID ought to be liaising with Australian primary industry organisations and other Australian groups to look at ways to undertake basic processing and then to facilitate shipment of this surplus to areas such as the Horn of Africa and parts of South America where the populations are currently suffering from famine as well as Asian areas currently inundated by massive flooding such as in Thailand, Cambodia, and regions around the Bay of Bengal.

One of Australia’s leading industrialists and philanthropists, Anthony Pratt of the Visy Group, mentioned this week that Australia has capacity to alleviate global food crises by quadrupling its food production. Yet, this overlooks the situation that already exists in sectors such as potatoes and bananas where surpluses could be processed and transported to where these foods are needed in the world.

If the Australian Government or others were willing to inject some capital (which could be managed through Australia’s AusAID program), this capital injection could well be a catalyst for more value-adding to occur for the benefit of Australian primary producers. In an economic climate where Australian food processing factories are currently being closed down, it makes no sense for Australia’s primary producers to be forced to let their produce rot in the ground.

The government must see this as an opportunity for goodwill in its foreign policy. A sense of philanthropy from the Australian Government could also have the potential consequence of stimulating the depressed Australian food manufacturing sector. What other solution could create better karma?

AFN journalist Matt Paish has put together our accompanying report.

Australian Food News urges readers to support our campaign by writing to politicians, media, and the Australian Government to insist that action be taken immediately. Please feel free to make your own comment using our Comments Box at the bottom of this page.