In response to uncertainty surrounding the spread of COVID-19 and the ongoing effects of drought, there has been unprecedented demand for a range of food items across the country as Australians stocked up at the supermarket, causing temporary shortages of some products in store. While the purchasing surge already appears to be abating and supply chains are adapting, consumers have raised concerns about the reduced supply and increased prices. However, a recent ABARES insights report, released by the Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment confirms shoppers can rest assured that Australia does not have a food security problem, in fact we’re one of the most food secure countries in the world.
Australian farmers are among the world’s best at growing quality food and fibre, even in difficult years, for our nation and many more, exporting around 70 per cent of our agricultural production. Of that which we do eat, imports account for around 11 per cent, allowing access to manufactured food and beverages, different varieties of some items, and out of season fresh produce. While Australians spend just 9.8 per cent of their household income on food each year, one of only eight countries in the world to spend less than 10 per cent. By contrast, developing countries spend a much greater proportion on food. Ten spend over 40 percent on food, with Nigeria at the top of the list at 56.4 percent. Additionally, Australia ranks twelfth on the Global Food Security Index, with the agricultural sector continually providing affordable, accessible, high quality, safe food.
Major supermarkets have relaxed specifications for fruit and vegetables to combat this disruption and get more fresh produce onto shelves and in turn, consumers’ plates during the pandemic. While above-average rainfall during the first three months of 2020 has improved conditions in some key agricultural regions across eastern Australia resulting in a significant chance of higher production in the coming months. In the meantime, consumers are reminded to support farmers who continue to work from home, growing the produce we depend on, by purchasing Australian made and grown food items at the supermarket checkout.