Letter to the the editor - 13/04/2020

To the Editor,

It is difficult trying to understand why some politicians and key advocacy groups are not supporting food production in Australia at a time when we all need to band together and accept there are problems which need fixing.

For the Victorian Farmers Federation water policy spokesman Richard Anderson to claim, as he did this week, that there are not issues with rice production because SunRice has relied on imports in the past, or that the dairy industry is “more than capable of meeting Australian’s needs” is, in my view, both inaccurate and irresponsible.

So are comments from the National Farmers’ Federation that we are growing enough food for 75 million people, in a nation of 25 million.

They should take note of comments from NSW Irrigators’ Council CEO Luke Simpkins, who said the irrigation industry must have a large role in responding to the (Coronavirus) crisis, “but to do this we need water”.

Referencing ABARE statistics he continued: “Aussie irrigation farmers produce 82.5% of our veggies, 92.5% of our fruit and nuts, 92% of our grapes, 92% of our cotton, 100% of our rice, as well as most of our dairy and sugar cane.”

However, we should also take note of the most recent ABARE statistics which paint a grim picture of the decline in Australian food production, especially in recently years but more generally since the start of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

Whereas we may in the past have been able to produce enough food for 75 million people, these latest figures surely cast huge doubt on that claim.

Therefore, we have to look at ways to increase our food production again, so we are not relying heavily on importing our staple foods including wheat, rice and dairy products.

And, as Mr Simpkins said: “We can’t feed a nation without water.”

So please, let’s stop the silly game playing by peak advocacy groups and politicians who seem more interested is supporting each other and their careers/positions than fixing a food security issue that all the statistics are telling us loud and clear exists and is getting worse.

I repeat the words: “We can’t feed a nation without water.”

So will politicians please provide this vital ingredient to our irrigation farmers to ensure they can continue making a huge input to our economic prosperity, as well as ensuring we return to the days of producing enough food for 75 million – whether they live in Australia or elsewhere around the world.

 Central Murray Environmental Floodplains Group Inc.

Doug Fehring, Cohuna Victoria.