National Farmers' Federation

60 Minutes shamelessly exploits uncertainty of COVID-19

Food security is one thing Australians don’t have to worry about, says National Farmers’ Federation President Fiona Simson.

“The NFF wants to categorically reassure the community of its continued access to home-grown food, despite media reports tonight to the contrary.

“The story aired tonight by 60 Minutes made a cursory attempt at addressing the very serious and complex issue of national water management, while raising a question over Australia’s food security.

“Agriculture, regional communities and the environment, up and down the Murray Darling Basin are at the coal face of mechanisms designed to instill equity into how water is accessed.

“These measures, especially the Murray Darling Basin Plan, have not yet delivered this equity.

“The pursuit of equity of access to water by farmers, communities, indigenous landholders and the environment is an unwavering priority for the members of the NFF.

“The recent ongoing drought conditions greatly exacerbated the pain felt across the Basin.

“The drought decreased production, across most commodities including rice. And we still have Australian grown rice available.

“To be clear though, despite the impacts of drought and poorly implemented water policy there are still irrigated crops being grown. There is still food being produced, especially in the southern Basin.

“It has been wonderful to see rain across much of the Basin over the past two months.

“The drought isn’t yet broken, nor are the water storages full, but repeat rains continue to improve the outlook.”

Ms Simson said never had facts been more important, than at a time as tough as this.

“The facts remain, that overall Australia, is one of the world’s most food secure nations.”

– Australia produces enough food to feed up to 75 million people. Our nation’s population is 25 million. According to the Australian Bureau of Resource Economics and Sciences, 85% of our food is domestically produced.

– Every consumer could triple their consumption of both beef and lamb and still not eat all the beef and lamb produced in Australia.

– Almost 100% of the chicken Australians enjoy is produced here.

– Australia does not import significant amounts of dairy products. Even for products such as cheese we export more than we import.

– In 2018/2019 imports of wheat totalled approximately 300,000t out of a current east coast milling demand of approximately 3,000,000t. Approximately two thirds of our production is generally exported. Fluctuations tend to be in response to production in the rest of the world and the competitiveness of our Australian industry than any other factor.

“60 minutes seem to be arguing that there needs to be a special allocation to irrigate a winter crop. The case for this was not made. ABARES predicts a national wheat crop of over 21 million tonnes, against an annual domestic consumption of less than 9 million tonnes.

“Tonight’s segment was an act of reckless scaremongering by seeking to tie the notion that Australia could run out of food to the complex issues of water management.

“It’s particularly shameful to do this at an unprecedentedly challenging time for every, single Australian.

“At a time, when almost every aspect of life as we know it has been disrupted including the ability for family to see family. And, at a time when food supply chain logistics need a period to adjust to unfortunate panic buying.

“The one thing that Australians can absolutely continue to count on is their access to safe, quality, home-grown produce.

“Tonight, 60 Minutes cast an unfounded shadow over this access and I‘m deeply concerned that the program will have caused unnecessary extra angst for Australian families.

“The segment was nothing short of tabloid journalism, that shamelessly sought to exploit the uncertainty of the COVID-19 situation, for nothing more than TV ratings,” Ms Simson said.

See the letter the NFF submitted to 60 Minutes here

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