Australian supermarkets are working to restock shelves after initial coronavirus panic buying © Chris Putnam/Barcroft Media/Getty Images
Australian supermarkets are working to restock shelves after initial coronavirus panic buying © Chris Putnam/Barcroft Media/Getty Images

Coronavirus: food security fears ‘misplaced’

20 April 2020

The Australian government has released a report showing it will not run out of food during the coronavirus outbreak despite fears of empty shelves.

The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) insights report, released by the Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment has described concerns about Australia’s food security as "misplaced".

"Despite temporary shortages of some food items in supermarkets caused by an unexpected surge in demand, Australia does not have a food security problem," it stated.

The paper described Australia as one of the most food-secure countries in the world, adding it exports 70% of its agricultural produce. Even in a drought year, the country’s produce was enough to feed its population, the report said.

Following the coronavirus outbreak, staple products such as flour and rice became in short supply in some supermarkets.

It added that while 10% of an average Australian household food bill is spent on imported foods, these are typically highly processed or frozen foods or fresh out-of-season foods.

"These imports play an important role in meeting consumer preferences for taste and variety," ABARES said.

While the pandemic could disrupt supplies of these foods, it would be unlikely to have any impact on Australia's food security, the report said.

“In terms of exports, there has been some disruption to airfreight and the availability of shipping containers," it added.

According to the release, trucks delivering to and from farms are moving freely, despite restrictions. 

However, Australia’s wine industry body fears a third of wineries could close in the aftermath of the coronavirus crisis, ABC reported.

"We've got 2,600 wineries at the moment and 30% of that we could lose," Tony Battaglene, chief executive of Australian Grape and Wine, was quoted as saying.

Travel restrictions and a ban on restaurants serving sit-down customers could lead to up to 800 wineries failing, the association stated.

Battaglene said the federal government stimulus packages will not help small winemakers as much as large companies.

Meanwhile in other coronavirus-related news, one of Australia’s builders’ associations has warned of an imminent crisis for the construction sector due to lockdowns.

Denita Wawn, CEO of Master Builders Australia said a survey on the impact of Covid-19 had found that 73% of respondents reported a substantial fall in forward work on their books, typically of around 40%.

“While projects that commenced prior to the onset of the Covid-19 crisis are providing short-term work for many, for the overwhelming majority of our 32,000 members new orders have fallen off a cliff,” she said.

“The situation is dangerous. At risk is the viability of nearly 400,000 building and construction businesses, the jobs of 1.2m Australians and the industry’s capacity to aid the economic recovery.”

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