Trends – Food Report

National Food Plan Green Paper 17/07/2012 (Australia)

Land:

Australia’s soils are ancient and weathered with limited nutrient content – fertilisers such as nitrogen and phosphorous are essential inputs into Australian agriculture – Australia imports around 77% nitrogen and 56% of its phosphorus requirements.

The cost of fertilisers has been steadily increasing in line with energy prices – the cost of phosphorus has doubled over the last 10 years.

At the end of 2010, 89% of agricultural land was entirely Australian owned – a further

5.5% at least 50% Australian owned – 99% of agricultural businesses, by number, were entirely Australian owned – 91% of water entitlements for agricultural purposes were entirely Australian owned – there had been minimal change in foreign ownership of land between 1984 and 2010.

In Australia in 2010–11, only 0.8% (or $1.38 billion) of approvals for foreign direct investment was in agriculture, forestry and fishing – a further 1.4% ($2.39 billion) was invested in food, beverage and tobacco manufacturing.

Foreign investment in agriculture globally is less than 1% of total world foreign direct investment inflows.

Australia produces enough food today to feed approximately 60 million people – it does so in the driest inhabited continent, on low-quality soils and in the face of continual climate variability.

While urban areas are expanding, agricultural production may also intensify, with a shift to higher-yielding or higher-value production, such as from broadacre grazing to intensive horticulture – in the Melbourne region between 2007–08 and 2009–10 the area under agriculture and the number of agricultural businesses actually increased by 4.6% and 5% respectively with a population increase of 6.8%.

Water:

In 2009–10, Australia consumed 13,476 GL of water – 52% was used for agriculture – manufacturing used 5% – and mining 1%.

Agriculture/Mining/Industry Co-existence:

The Australian Government has committed $200 million to support the management of the potential impacts of coal seam gas and large coal mining developments on water resources – the government is also working with the state and territory governments to develop a national, harmonised framework for coal seam gas which will focus on specific concerns around water management and monitoring, including hydraulic fracturing, chemical use, well integrity and aquifer protection.

The Gas Industry Social and Environmental Research Alliance (a partnership between the CSIRO and Australia Pacific LNG) has estimated an average of 25,800 ha of agricultural land per year would be shared with coal seam gas – less than 1% of the nation’s farm land.

Food Market dominance:

Australia’s two major supermarket chains, Coles and Woolworths, represent about 50% of fresh produce sales in Australia, and about 70% of packaged food sales.

While private label brands are becoming more prevalent in the Australian grocery retail market, and the major supermarket chains have indicated that they plan to expand their private label ranges significantly, they currently have significantly less market share in Australia (around 14%) compared to some other international retail markets such as the United Kingdom (around 43%) and Switzerland (46%).

There is a perception that employment in food and beverage manufacturing is declining – in fact, full-time employment in the sector has remained steady for over 25 years and part-time employment has increased in recent years.

Food and Health:

Even though Australia has one of the safest food supplies in the world, there are an estimated 5.4 million cases of food-borne illness each year, at an estimated cost of $1.2 billion.

In 2008 the total annual cost of obesity to the Australian community was $58.2 billion – including $8.3 billion in lost productivity and $2 billion in health system costs.

There is evidence that the costs of healthy (low energy density, high nutrient-density) foods are increasing disproportionately when compared with the costs of higher energy density, relatively nutrient-poor foods.

68% of adult men and 55% of adult women are overweight or obese – 25% of children aged 5 to 17 years are overweight or obese – the proportion of children who are obese has risen by 60% in less than 10 years – 65% of young Australians are predicted to be overweight or obese by 2020.

Based on these trends and no effective interventions, 83% of men and 75% of women aged 20 years and over in Australia could be overweight or obese by 2025 – the predicted increase is expected to significantly affect Australia’s disease burden and healthcare costs, mostly due to an increased incidence of type 2 diabetes, which is expected to become the leading disease burden by 2023.

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CO2Land org feels compelled to look deeper at the opportunities for technology and policy changes that go beyond wanting handouts to encourage the necessary changes, increasingly that compelling need is the realisation efficiency of the practices is more important than effectiveness of the policy.

Thanks again the Garry Reynolds of NRM DAFF for these insights.

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