Ceaseless and intensifying economic and environmental pressures require a national food security plan “as a matter of urgency”, an alliance representing nine of Australia’s biggest food producers and distributors says.
The National Food Supply Chain Alliance, whose members include the National Farmers Federation, the Australian Meat Industry Council and Independent Food Distributors Australia, said the risks to food security in Australia had never been more acute in the wake of recent extreme weather events, growing inflation and workforce shortages.
Independent Food Distributors chief executive Richard Forbes said recent flooding in Victoria and NSW, combined with the Bureau of Meteorology warnings of hotter summers and longer droughts and a workforce shortage of 170,000 people, meant the development of a national security plan was a must.
Mr Forbes told NCA NewsWire on Thursday that industry groups coming together to warn of the risk to food prices was “unprecedented”.
He said food prices were predicted to increase by 6-8 per cent next year, while a recent Food Bank report said there were two million Australians struggling to put food on the table.
Mr Forbes, who has been meeting with members of the federal government and opposition in recent days, said a national food security plan would be “complex” but in essence would mirror a business-style strategic risk plan.
He said the areas of focus were labour shortages, global supply chains and whether Australia should improve its food processing ability.
“We need to ask ourselves, ‘What can we learn from these (weather) events’?” There’s a lot of different parts of the supply chain that are being affected,” Mr Forbes said, adding that “agricultural is being hammered.”
The alliance’s plan comes as Victorian Farmers Federation president Emma Germano told Melbourne radio station 3AW this week that more than 300 hectares of crops remained underwater in Victoria and 109,000 tonnes of hay and silage had been lost in the wake of northern Victoria’s flooding crisis.
Ms Germano also said 9800 livestock had died and a further 1400 were missing.
“This is going to be a really rough time in agriculture,” she said.
Ms Germano said prices at supermarkets were going to be impacted as a result of the flooding crisis, and the cost to the industry was in the “millions and millions of dollars”.
In the past year, the price of essentials has increased by more than 8 per cent, while the Consumer Price Index remains above 7 per cent.