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Lobby group says Australia’s food security relies on water policy

By Jamie Salter

The importance of food security in Australia has been highlighted during a National Rural Health Alliance ‘virtual conversation’.

Speak Up Campaign chair Shelley Scoullar said Australia’s food security had been raised numerous times before and during the COVID-19 crisis, but had not been treated seriously by some governments and advocacy organisations.

“The (National Rural) Health Alliance discussion this week acknowledged that while Australia is a food-secure nation as a whole, there are many parts of the community who do not have access to high quality food — this is especially a problem in remote areas,” Mrs Scoullar said.

“If we want to improve our food security we need to ensure it can be grown in Australia.

“As we work through coronavirus, and beyond, we must stop our increasing reliance on imported food.”

Mrs Scoullar said despite government assurances, Australian-grown rice supplies would run out by the end of the year.

“This shortage could be easily avoided if governments developed effective policies that supported rice growers,” she said.

“The same can be said for dairy products — we are importing more of these because we do not have the right policy mix, especially around water management, to support our dairy farmers.”

Mrs Scoullar said for Australia to retain its sovereignty around food production, water management policies needed to be reviewed.

“We need sensible, balanced policy that equitably shares our water to protect the environment and support food production.

“Instead, it flows over the banks causing environmental damage when we try to force too much down the river, we allow massive evaporation from large shallow lakes and we pour huge quantities of fresh water out into the ocean.”

Speak Up has called on the Federal Government to work with local communities to develop solutions to protect Australia’s food security.

“If we do this, Australia’s food security can be protected and we will see more locally grown products on our supermarket shelves,” Mrs Scoullar said.

“And if we increase supply we can also help to keep food prices down, and therefore more affordable in city and rural areas.”