South China Sea conflict, warning for Australians to stockpile supplies

Posted by Andrea Hogan on 6th March 2017

Australia’s largest motoring organisation, the NRMA, has warned that Australia’s dependency on overseas fuel import shipments passing through the South China Sea could lead to a major shortage of petrol with consequent unavailability of essential supplies including food.

Quoted on the ABC, retired Air Vice Marshall, John Blackburn, who is currently advising the National Roads and Motorists’ Association (NRMA) on Australia’s fuel security, said the distribution of food, medicine and water across Australia was dependent on overseas fuel.

If anything was to stop fuel entering the country, such as a conflict in the South China Sea, Australia could have significant problems in distributing its food, medicine and other essential supplies as there is a lack of Australian-based reserve supplies.

Would Australians have enough food if something was to happen?

In Australia there is not much promotion on having supplies like food ready in case of emergency. This is different even to New Zealand which due to the increased risk of earthquake has more of a focus on emergency preparation.

As reported by the ABC, the NRMA says Australia’s stockholding capability is seven days for chilled and frozen goods delivery, 9 days for dry goods, 7 days for retail pharmacy supplies, 3 days for hospital pharmacy supplies and 3 days for petrol stations.

Case study in point

Many Australians are unaware that several years ago, the Australian Food and Grocery Council published a “pantry list” which provided some guidance on basic essentials to be held in every household to cater for shortages caused by disruption in grocery supply chain in circumstances such as a pandemic. The Pantry List can be found here. The New Zealand scheme suggest that schools and workplaces also hold emergency stocks of groceries, more details can be found here.

In 2008, Australian food compliance experts, FoodLegal, made a submission to a Australian parliamentary committee on Australia’s food production.

Although the submission stressed that it did not promote ‘survivalism’, it drew attention to the amount of planning required by government to handle food shortages and that consideration needs to be given to the “wider ramifications that make food shortages very likely”.

FoodLegal’s 2008 submission can be found here.