Ms Zoe Daniel asked the Minister representing the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, in writing, on 04 September 2023:
1. Is the Minister aware of the diverse range of research and intelligence assessments (for example, the Chatham House Climate Change Risk Assessment 2021) that conclude that over the next thirty years the world will face a growing and chronic food shortage driven by an estimated 50 per cent increase in food demand by 2050 and a 20 to 30 per cent decrease in crop yields.
2. Has the Government assessed the likelihood and impacts of such events on food security and food prices in Australia; if so: (a) can details of any such assessment be provided; and (b) can the assessment be provided.
3. Is the Government concerned that such events could provoke a cost of living crisis greater than anything Australians have experienced over the past fifty years.
Ms King – The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Senator the Hon Murray Watt, has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
The government is aware of and concerned by the high levels of food insecurity globally, including as a result of increased food demand, potential decrease of crop yields and the impacts of climate change, as outlined in current research and intelligence.
In my address to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on 1 July 2023, I highlighted the challenges ahead for the world as it strives to meet the Sustainable Development Goal of delivering zero hunger by 2030. In this speech, I referred to research by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) that estimates global agricultural productivity needs to increase by 28 % over the next decade to achieve zero hunger.
I also drew upon the important work by the FAO and the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) that shows that the world needs to take action, including by increasing investment in agricultural research and development and removing distortions to agricultural markets, if we are to improve food production, lower consumer prices, support economic development, and adapt to and mitigate the impacts of climate change.
For some time now, global food production has outpaced global population growth, contributing to the long-term fall in real agricultural prices. The OECD found that the 2000s had per capita agricultural production growth rates close to twice those seen in previous decades. This meant that during this period, agricultural production growth outstripped population growth at a faster pace than what has occurred over the previous 40 years.
Over the next 10 years, the FAO & OECD expect these trends to continue but at a slower pace. The 10-year outlook expects real food prices to remain stable to falling as production increases in line with demand growth. However, climate change is expected to place greater pressure on global production and agricultural productivity, with ABARES research showing a growing divide between production location and areas of food insecurity.
Free and open global agricultural markets will be important in dealing with these pressures and minimizing the impacts on food security and food prices. As ABARES has pointed out, reforming global distortions to agricultural markets has the potential to lower consumer prices, raise producer returns and reduced emissions from agriculture.
In terms of domestic production, Australia exports on average around 70% of what we produce. ABARES regularly produces forecasts for the year ahead for agricultural production, prices and trade and in March each year produces a 5-year outlook.
Australia has not been immune to the effects of climate change. Analysis by ABARES indicates changes in seasonal conditions have reduced average farm profits by 23% over the past 20 years. Despite this, productivity has continued to improve and outpaced the impact of climate change, helping grow aggregate agricultural production and improve producer returns. At the same time, there has been a fall in the land area used for agriculture as the conservation estate has grown. ABARES found that from 1970 to 2020, agricultural output increased by 104% while land used by agriculture fell by 28%.
Adaptation to, and mitigation of climate impacts is crucial for maintaining farm productivity and ensuring long term food security. This is why we have developed a national statement on climate change and agriculture. The national statement is a shared commitment by commonwealth, state and territory agriculture ministers to work in partnership with the sector to sustainably increase agricultural productivity and drive future profitability, improve adaptation and resilience to a changing climate, and implement pathways that will support low-emissions agriculture.
Continued investments in Australia’s agricultural innovation system will also be critical. These have helped us keep pace with climate change, but continued momentum is needed.
Australia’s 15 Rural Research and Development Corporations (RDCs) are the Australian Government’s primary vehicle for funding rural innovation to drive productivity. RDCs have been the cornerstone of agricultural innovation for over 30 years and are a unique, and internationally envied, model of government and industry co-investment. Collectively the RDCs received around $900 million each year to invest in industry priorities. The Australian Government provides over $300 million of these funds.
Food security and cost of living are both high priorities for the Australian Government. Open global agricultural markets, global action on emissions, continued and enhanced adaptation of producers at home, and ongoing investments in our R&D system are all critical elements my government is focused on. Last year I requested the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Agriculture inquire into food security in Australia. I expect the inquiry to report to Parliament by the end of the year. The Select Committee on the Cost of Living is also inquiring into cost of living pressures. Further information on both parliamentary inquiries is available at www.aph.gov.au.