Security priority: Redman

Claire TyrrellCountryman
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Food security will be a key focus of the State Government over the next few years, as a surge in global food demand triggers a need for strengthened policies.

WA Agriculture Minister Terry Redman spoke at length about local and international food security last week.

Mr Redman launched the Agrifood 2025 future WAy initiative at the Australian Agricultural and Resource Economics Society conference on Wednesday last week.

He said the initiative was designed to stimulate debate on the future of WA's food production sector.

"Several potential scenarios have been developed by the Department of Agriculture and Food as a starting point," he said.

"We hope they will stimulate debate and feed into policy development as the sector takes part in this important dialogue to help shape the future of our State's agriculture and food sector."

Mr Redman said WA growers should be prepared to capitalise on rising global food demand.

It is estimated that by 2025, the world's population will have grown by 2.5 billion with an explosion of the middle class in Asia.

"We currently export more than $5 billion worth of agricultural products each year while offering an array of fresh, quality produce to WA consumers," Mr Redman said.

"These global changes will create opportunities to significantly increase the value of agricultural exports."

Mr Redman also attended a Curtin University workshop to discuss the university's newly established International Institute of Agri-Food Security (IIAFS).

IIFAS director Janet Bornman said creating strategies to increase local food sustainability and increasing community awareness on the health benefits of quality food were key challenges to WA's food security.

"Another challenge is to maintain a reliable and secure supply chain from farm to consumer at local levels that can snowball into an efficient supply chain network," she said.

"Climate variability, global economics and trade markets are removing many of the differences in food security issues that once separated developing and developed countries and we are all moving towards similar sustainability risks."

Professor Bornman said further issues facing WA food security included transport logistics, lower food quality in remote areas, price discrepancies between nutritious food and junk food and high levels of food wastage.

"An estimated four million tonnes of food is wasted or thrown away by Australians annually, equivalent to roughly 178 kg per person per year," she said. "In financial terms, Australians are throwing away $7.8 billion each year.

"Also, food costs more in the areas of greatest geographic and socio-economic disadvantage in WA. The mean cost of a healthy food basket in very remote areas is 23-29 per cent more than in metropolitan areas.

"To address these issues, we need to make people aware of the problems and risks, as well as providing information about opportunities and solutions to overcome food insecurity."

The IIAFS, funded by the WA Department of Health, Fruit West and Curtin University, aims to promote locally produced food.

The State Government is expected to host a series of workshops on the future WAy intiative in coming months.

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For more information, visit <a rel="nofollow" href="http://www.agrifood2025.agric.wa.gov.au">www.agrifood2025.agric.wa.gov.au </a>

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