By Mandy Hay, Deniliquin
During these difficult times it is important that we are working together to meet the challenges.
One of the issues that has concerned many people is Australia’s food security, and rightly so.
Alarm bells have being ringing (and ignored) around our reliance on other countries, especially China, for a vast range of life’s essentials. Now the chicken is coming home to roost.
While the ability of Australian farmers to feed our nation is not in doubt, we should be looking at how we can maximise food production for the national benefit.
It was interesting to read that the NSW Farmers association is reassuring the public that there is no need to fear food shortages in Australia as the world grapples with the coronavirus pandemic.
It stated that rice is “grown here in NSW” which, at present, is a bit of a stretch.
The largest rice mill in the Southern Hemisphere, right here in the Riverina town of Deniliquin, has virtually shut down with significant job losses because the rice crop has been almost non-existent for two years.
Farmers in this rice growing region have watched water pour down the rivers, flooding forests along the way with much of it eventually lost through evaporation or wasted as it flows out to sea.
They are frustrated beyond belief because they are not allowed to touch this water, due largely to our poor water policy and management.
NSW Farmers has come under fire of late for its failure to advocate strongly enough for the agricultural sector in southern NSW, and its statement that rice is grown in NSW is yet another example of an organisation that is out of touch with a large section of its membership.
Instead, it should be telling the situation as it really is: that we are not growing rice at present because of the poor water policy and management that desperately needs to be fixed.
Yes, we have farmers going about their daily tasks and growing food that will continue to feed our nation during the crisis we are facing.
However, if governments allowed those in the southern parts of the state to access water for production instead of wasting it, our food supplies would be even more secure. This especially applies to staples like rice and dairy.
This is what organisations like NSW Farmers should be advocating for.