Government fails to finance food

From The Land


CLIMATE change poses a threat to Australia’s food supply on a scale that urgently requires the attention of the Prime Minister, says industry leader Kate Carnell.

The combination of drought, the proposed emissions trading scheme and the global downturn are all posing significant challenges for Australia’s food industry, but there is a lack of strong government direction to address the problems confronting the sector.

“The viability of the food manufacturing sector is under threat – and if these challenges are not addressed, they will significantly impact on Australia’s long-term food security, and our capacity to be self-sufficient,” said Ms Carnell, the chief executive of the Australian Food and Grocery Council.

The $70 billion-a-year food industry, employing 200,000 people, is Australia’s biggest manufacturing industry yet is regulated by about 20 government departments when what is needed is a co-ordinated approach overseen by the Department of Prime and Cabinet, Ms Carnell, a former ACT chief minister, said.

The impact of drought and the prospect of a carbon trading scheme that would penalise the local industry but not foreign food competitors is highlighting the need for a national food policy.

“This whole industry is based on available water and low-cost power and really, like any other agricultural products, if your water is not there – no water, no food – that’s a bit of a problem,” Ms Carnell told the National Press Club yesterday.

That problem becomes more daunting if the price of power rises as a result of the emissions trading scheme, with significant knock-on effects given 90 per cent of the inputs to the food industry comes from Australian farms, Ms Carnell said.

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