Opinion

Fix water issues before food crisis happens

By Country News

By Anne-Marie Best

Brandy Hill, NSW

If we were to ask ‘what are our key staple foods?’ I think most people would agree that wheat, rice and dairy products are near the top of the list.

Recently there have been warnings that Australia is not growing enough staple foods, though this suggestion has been sternly rejected by our Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud who keeps telling everyone, incorrectly, that we are growing enough food for 75 million people.

So let’s look at the staples I mentioned — rice, dairy and wheat.

I’m sure Mr Littleproud, like everyone else, would agree that we are not growing enough rice for domestic consumption.

That fact is agreed to by all and sundry, including SunRice which has to process our rice.

Mr Littleproud also now realises there are threats to our dairy industry.

He was asked at a press conference on May 6 whether Australia’s milk supply was at risk, to which he answered: "If we continue to lose the number of dairy farmers that we have over the last 12 months, we are in a situation, at a juncture, where the dairy industry itself won’t be able to sustain all the demand in this country".

You can’t be any clearer than that.

In relation to wheat, we have had a threefold increase in wheat imports on the east coast, and must question whether this is sustainable with current global shipping arrangements. We need to grow more wheat.

So if the agreed position by the agriculture minister in relation to rice and dairy, plus the obvious issues around wheat, are not enough to tell Australians we have a looming problem (perhaps even a crisis) I don’t know what is.

And all we need to fix the problem is improve our water management so that more is allocated to food production, especially in southern NSW and northern Victoria.

A simple solution, yet governments refuse to act. Let’s hope we don’t get to crisis point before this changes.