Government announces inquiry into food security in Australia

This article first appeared on Convenience & Impulse Retailing, authored by Deborah Jackson

The Federal Government has announced it will commence an inquiry into food security in Australia, which comes as welcome news to the National Food Supply Chain Alliance.

The Alliance, which is made up of nine national food industry associations, has been calling for an inquiry for many months, following a series of devastating natural disasters.

The cumulative group, which includes the Australia Association of Convenience Stores (AACS), represents around 160,000 businesses with a combined revenue of $224 billion, and employing almost one million workers.

The Alliance says studies have shown that achieving supply chain resilience must be a ‘multi-level’ effort meaning it should bring different groups of stakeholders together to work collectively to mitigate and soften the harm caused by supply chain disruptions.

Richard Forbes, a spokesperson for the Alliance, says there has never been a more critical time to examine Australia’s food system and then develop a long-term national food plan with future resilience in mind.

“The threat to Australia’s national food supply chain, sparked by the pandemic, current geo-political tensions, the threat of a global recession plus the ongoing threat of natural disasters due to climate change, have highlighted the nations vulnerability to both domestic and global factors.

“These events have destabilised our supply chains and triggered flow-on impacts for both the economy and our communities. A reduction in food availability and increased food prices is an example of this. The culmination of these events has placed unprecedented stresses on food supply chains, with bottlenecks in labour, supply of product, processing, transport, and logistics. Recently the Alliance calculated worker shortages of 172,000 from paddock to plate.

“If we look at natural disasters alone, The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has warned that extreme weather events – like floods, heatwaves, fires, and droughts – will become more frequent and more severe in Australia due to climate change. And this is likely to lead to more frequent disruptions to food supplies and rising food prices. We are living in a country of rolling natural disasters.”

According to the Alliance, a successful outcome at the completion of the inquiry is one where there is bipartisan support to develop a national food supply chain strategy that protects the Australian consumer from ongoing global and domestic disruptions, which will ultimately help stabilise food price fluctuations and provide consistent, dependable access to sufficient volumes of food for domestic consumption.

From an industry perspective, improvements in supply chain management will boost business, enhance innovation and technology, create jobs, and increase broader economic development opportunities.

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