agriculture, environment, sustainability

Resetting Australia’s agricultural industry in the face of climate change

“The end game is that they are pushing Australian farmers off the land. Farmers who have contracts with them become medieval serfs. They stop investing in their businesses. More and more imported produce comes in and eventually prices go up.” – Nick Xenophon

The Monthly has produced a breath-taking piece on Supermarket Monsters which looks at the impact of the supermarket duopolies on producers and suppliers. While it looks at the growing influence of Coles and Woolworths and its domination in Australia’s retail industry, it also highlights how consumers are allowing this to happen by the power of choice.

There’s much to be said on how we vote with our wallets. Roy Morgan estimates put Coles and Woolworths’ market share to be way ahead of competitors like ALDI and IGA. The Monthly gives a sympathetic view on how aggressive pricing hurts smaller players and producers.  Farming incomes are already facing significant pressures having to drop prices down to meet contractual obligations. It is no surprise that rural debt is rising in Australia and the closure of more farms including this example in Queensland is just another example of a crisis that has far reaching implications that needs to be examined.

I think a lot about food security in the face of climate change and how Australia would feed itself as a country, if we lose more producers and have to rely on imports to feed the nation in the future. IPCC modelling has already shown that wheat and maize production will be impacted along with a range of other crops. Our food system is under threat and as a country, we are struggling with the bureaucracy and lack of foresight in addressing what is critical – which we cannot turn back once the producers exit the system.

I wrote a short summary for a thesis I’m planning to write – which was ambitiously too large – as my potential supervisor pointed out. I wanted to share this because its about resetting Australia’s agricultural industry in the face of climate change. My motivations behind the topic are:

  1. To acknowledge that present agricultural practices, consumer demand and the supplier pressures set by major supermarkets will not allow Australia to achieve food security.
  2. To acknowledge that climate change means we have transition from our current ideals of what consumers want and get producers and suppliers to acknowledge that more sustainable crops are needed to feed Australians in the future.
  3. To identify policies and attitudes within government and the industry need to be transitioned to acknowledge that financial assistance is needed to support landowners, producers to support them in the transition towards the production of more sustainable and climate hardy crops.

These questions keep me up at night and if perhaps someone else feels the same way, I would love to hear from you.

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