grocery fight

No, Australians, you’re not going to run out of food

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People around the world have a lot to be worried about at the moment. The number of global coronavirus cases has topped 2 million. About 145,000 people have died. The International Monetary Fund has predicted that the world will experience the worst economic recession since the Great Depression. But that’s not the only depression we face: Psychologists are warning that Covid-19 could lead to an epidemic of clinical depression as well. Businesses are shuttering their doors. Schools are closed (which may be good for online tutors). People are running out of money. It’s a dire situation all around.

But there is one thing Australians don’t have to fret about, and that’s food. ABARES, the federal government’s agricultural research department, has just published a report outlining why this is so. According to the report, Australia’s food supply is among the most secure in the world.

“The vast majority of our food is produced here in Australia, and domestic production more than meets our needs even during drought years,” the paper says, specifying that only about 10 percent of food and drinks consumed in Australia are imported from other nations.

Most of the food produced domestically is exported.

“We remain a net exporter of food,” agricultural minister David Littleproud said when the report was published. “We export 70% of our beef and veal, 71% of our wheat, and 41% of our dairy products. We have implemented strategies that include maintaining agriculture’s service and supply lines, extending work visas and providing freight support.”

Since the outbreak began, Australians have been stressing over a potential food shortage. It got so bad that fights were breaking out inside grocery stores, prompting a sharp public rebuke from Prime Minister Scott Morrison last month, who demanded that people “stop hoarding.”

“I can’t be more blunt about it,” he said. “Stop it. It is not sensible, it is not helpful and it has been one of the most disappointing things I have seen in Australian behaviour in response to this crisis. That is not who we are as a people. It is not necessary. It is not something that people should be doing.”

According to the ABARES report, food shortage fears are “misplaced.” It emphasized that if supermarkets are running out of things like pasta, rice and flour, it’s because people are panic-buying—not because the country is failing to produce enough.

The worst that could happen, the report went on to state, is a temporary supply chain disruption, which could have serious economic implications. However:

“This would not threaten the food security of most Australians.”

Sounds like Australians will have to find another reason to panic.