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Bruce Tuncks

Does Australia have a food surplus or not?

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There was a report that Australia had become a net importer of food. On closer examination, this turned out to be untrue as it ignored bulk exports.

But Australia uses imported fuel and fertilizer to produce food, and these have not been taken into account either.

What is the true situation? Should we worry or not?

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Today's news says farmers are ploughing food crops into the ground because demand has fallen by more than half. Most is bought by restaurants.

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I was talking to a major milk producer recently who claimed that in the not too distant future Australia will be importing milk. He runs a modern dairy on the outskirts of Sydney, near The Oaks. The area around Camden, Menangle and The Oaks were major milk producing areas from the early 1900's, but in the past 25 years the dairy farms have been sold off for residential and light industrial development. There is also the problem that people don't want to work in an industry that requires them to get up in the wee hours every morning.

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The conventional figure is that Australia can feed 60 million. So there are exports for 37 million if that is right. But we import the fuel to grow food.

The old draft-horse farms used a third of their land to feed the horses. So that would say that 20 million are "fed" by imported oil.

If the same was true for fertilizer then we may not be self-sufficient at all. The fertilizer might be worse... over a century ago, there were farmers who abandoned farms near Adelaide to move further out to where they had virgin soil as yet undepleted of phosphate.

I've tried to google this up but so far no luck.

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One of the reasons that we could have a deficit of food is the fact that the supermarkets are buying overseas food at low prices and refusing to pay a decent price for Aussie food.

The milk industry was a big industry in Qld until it was opened up for competition from all over. Wht used to be the worlds biggest milk run is no more. That was Malanda supplying way out to Mt Isa. My local area had many dairy farms 15 years ago, now only 1 I think. Port Curtis Dairy, which was originally a co op is gone, They used to bottle milk in Gladstone and make butter in Monto. It is hard to get decent milk in a supermarket, mostly it is a product of Pauls, which means it has been stripped down to its absolute minimum, more like blue chalky water.

The other reason for a deficit is that overseas they will pay high prices and our producers would rather stop producing than produce for what we are willimg to pay.

Best way is to produce it yourself.

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Posted (edited)

The milk industry has always been a nightmare for producers. In the era after WW2, my father became a dairy farmer. He couldn't have made a worse choice, with oversupply a constant problem, and then milk quotas were introduced to try and limit milk production. He started dairy farming in 1951 and gave it away after constant losses, in 1957.

 

Nowadays, the supermarkets are the ones calling the shots, and the dairy farmers need to be protected from their predatory corporate behaviour. Too much power is in the hands of the retailing corporations, and protection for the dairy industry needs to be introduced, such as a fair floor price for milk and dairy products.

 

It will never happen until we have a dreadful shortage of dairy products, due to farmers leaving the business wholesale, and then the pollies will be wringing their hands and jumping into their reactive mode, way too late.

These food-producing primary industries need protection from predators of all types, even other countries, because they are critical infrastructure for our survival.

 

During and after WW2, Britain (and other places as well) relied on regular shiploads of Australian food - meat, milk, butter, grains, fruit, and even canned foods - to survive. Britains food production was unable to sustain its population after WW2, such was the economic and manpower damage she had suffered, and the British population would have suffered greatly from starvation if it was not for Australia's regular shiploads of food supplies in the late 1940's, and even early 1950's.

 

https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/result?l-decade=194&q=shipping+food+Britain

Edited by onetrack
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I have blamed the supermarkets for the low milk prices, but really it is the dairy companies. When you have a dairy company in an area, there is little likelihood that there will be another within many km. That company will take milk from all the local producers and dictate the price to them. There is no chance that they can sell to any other dairy, because they are too far away for that company to collect. That means the dairy companies have a monopoly and they sure know how to use it. I reckon one of the best decisions I ever made was to get out of milk producing, the next best was to get out of agriculture completely.

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When I first came out here, the dairy industry was in dire straights.. It may have been the dairies biying off the farmers, but the supermarkets were dictating prices to the dairies. I remember not too long after I came out, there were big farm protests where the farmers were dumping the milk in their fields. Over the years, there was a lot of attrition of dairy farms. However, it seems to have stabilised - sort of. The price has been volatile over the years, but on average, these days, the farmers apparently do OK. I know a dairy farmer who is on a cost plus contract - so he is insulated from price volatility, but doesn't earn as much in the good times, butthen dowsn't lose in the bad times.

 

I think the British supermarkets have signed up to a voluntary code of conduct where they will pay a "fair price" for milk - not 100% sure. However, at £1.10 fr a 2,75l carton of Tescos branded milk, or £1.85 for branded milk (about $2.10 and $3.50 at current rates), the milk looks still to be a loss leader for the supermarkets.

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I cant believe with the "unemployment" in this country that we still need to import Asian and islander workers to pick fruit, work in meatworks and other agricultural jobs. I have first hand seen people that have been sent by job agencies to Chicken processors and meatworks here in Tamworth- that refused to work there because it smells. If you don't have a job and one is there I don't think we should have to support you. When I worked at a factory in Tasmania, I spent my holidays picking peas by hand on steep hillsides. I made more money then than my regular job. Fruit picking does not last forever, if you have to sacrifice a few weeks at a time away from girlfriend and kids so be it. Working outside with plants were some of my more enjoyable times, less stress, no overheads and fresh air. I think it is these people don't want to commit to "having a go" because it takes effort.

One friend recently commented that with the doubling of payments for 6 months he had no incentive to go pick apples, as the extra $7150 over six months that it provides makes him comfortable for no effort.

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The composition of milk sold in Australia is regulated. There are minimum levels for fat, protein and carbohydrates. The difference between $1.20/litre Drought Relief milk and $1.60 per litre full cream milk is simply that the $1.20/ litre milk has been stripped down to close to the legal minima. What has been stripped out goes to manufacturing.

 

Unfortunately, the co-operatives which the farmers set up to handle their milk became businesses and the bottom line for the business became the Holy Grail. The farmers are running on very low profit margins, while the dairy companies and major supermarket chains set the retail price. As soon as the weather changes, either too wet or too dry, the farmer's production costs don't change, so the planning a farmer does based on contracted price goes out the window as feed prices rise.

 

Then, of course, there are the rises in vet fees, transport costs, etc., etc.

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When I was in the dairy industry, we had cattle in a shed, milked with a bucket machine. It was carted from cow to cow, plugged into the vacuum line, put on the cow and she was milked. We used two of these to milk about 40 cows, twice per day. We carted the milk into our dairy, tipped it into the cooler, which was a corrugated tank for the milk to run over the outside and water inside cooled it. Then into the 10gallon churns. Not a really great financial outlay to set up.

Now the cattle come into a bail, which is a set of railings to contain them, the milking machine cluster is put on them and the milk goes via pipework to a refrigerated holding tank. It will be picked up at whatever timing suits the dairy company, so there could be several days supply of milk to be stored, refrigerated on farm.

This means the dairy farmer has a much greater financial outlay and greater ongoing costs. This puts him at the mercy of the big dairy company who know he cannot withhold supply, so must accept whatever price they give him.

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GET YOUR SHOPPING BAGS AND GET HORDING!

 

We're out of peanut butter! The recent drought has caused the Australian peanut crop to fail almost completely. Drought has also cut down our local supply, with peanut growth in Australia down more than 90 per cent than normal, and as a result, most Australian manufacturers would have to import peanuts. We all know what happens when Australian manufacturers have to import raw materials!

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I'm afraid I can't get too excited over a total lack of peanut butter supplies. I'm somewhat allergic to all nuts, I actually detest all nuts, and I never eat anything with nuts in it. I now await the rage of the nut farmers!

I trust the next good news is a failure of the bean crop, leading to a lack of baked beans - another food item I hate with a vengeance!

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I can live without ALL those Nuts.

But I like my baked beans. ( well cooked not just heated ).

spacesailor

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Posted (edited)

The real reason we are out of peanut butter is because the buyers dictate the price and they have preferred to get cheap peanuts from China rather than pay a decent price for Aussie peanuts.

Peanut growers here have changed to other crops to get better profits,

I haven't had baked beans since I was demobbed from the army. Guess why.

Edited by Guest
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I haven't had baked beans since I was demobbed from the army. Guess why.

 

Flatulence?

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The latest is that by Christmas we will not be able to buy Australian rice. The Murray darling water is just not available to the rice growers. I really wonder what the position of our agricultural industry is. We keep getting told it is worlds best, but then we are told everything we have is worlds best. I wonder why we import so much.

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Our BEST goes overseas .WE put up with what's left or Import from ASIA. How's that good except for the foreign companies who have ownership of a lot of this Industrially Farmed land destroying monoculture monstrosities.? Nev

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YENN

" we are told everything we have is worlds best. "

They haven't checked Canberra lately ?.

spacesailor

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The wife put wrapped cheese slices on the shopping list she sent me out with today. I grew up eating Kraft Cheddar Cheese which came wrapped in silver paper in a cardboard box, so I reached for the Kraft Cheese slices. I decided to have a look for the origin of the product. "Made from at least 20% Australian content." On the other hand, Woolworth's own brand claimed 90% Australian content.

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The percentage of Aussie content probably depends mostly on the thickness of the packaging.

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Yes, I thought that, but then I was wondering how much cardboard and plastic film is made in Australia and how much packing companies import.

 

It's time we reached for Donald Horne's The Lucky Country and Ian Lowe's  2016 The Lucky Country? Reinventing Australia to remind ourselves that we have become a land of lotus eaters.

 

The title of Horne's book comes from the opening words of the book's last chapter:

Australia is a lucky country run mainly by second rate people who share its luck. It lives on other people's ideas, and, although its ordinary people are adaptable, most of its leaders (in all fields) so lack curiosity about the events that surround them that they are often taken by surprise.

 

Horne's statement was an indictment of 1960's Australia. His intent was to comment that, while other industrialized nations created wealth using clever means such as technology and other innovations, Australia did not. Rather, Australia's economic prosperity was largely derived from its rich natural resources and immigration. Horne observed that Australia "showed less enterprise than almost any other prosperous industrial society." In the decades following his book's publication, Horne became critical of the "lucky country" phrase being used as a term of endearment for Australia. He commented, "I have had to sit through the most appalling rubbish as successive generations misapplied this phrase."

 

Lowe's book addresses Horne's stance, and states that due to poor leadership, little has changed since The Lucky Country.

 

 In Greek mythology the lotus-eaters, were a race of people living on an island dominated by the lotus tree. The lotus fruits and flowers were the primary food of the island and were a narcotic, causing the inhabitants to sleep in peaceful apathy. Figuratively, 'lotus-eater' denotes "a person who spends their time indulging in pleasure and luxury rather than dealing with practical concerns".

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The greatest concern to me is the amount of manufactured/processed food ingredients coming from China. These additives/ingredients range from sweeteners to thickeners (gums), "natural" flavours, colouring agents, and "antioxidants".

 

These ingredients are generally supplied in bulk in 200 litre containers and the vast majority of them are produced via industrial processes. Typically, these ingredients are;

 

Natural colours
Sweetners such as Stevia and Stevia extracts
Citric acids
Proteins & Fibres (such as soy and pea)
Xanthan-gum, Gellan Gum, Welan gum
Extracts
Dehydrated vegetables
Food additives (unspecified)

 

As an example, cooking/food oils such as canola, safflower, olive, and all the other "blended vegetable oils" (mainly cottonseed oil based), rely on the addition of an anti-oxidant to prevent the oil from rapidly becoming rancid.

 

Many of the anti-oxidants used are pure industrial chemicals, such as butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT), orbutylated hydroxyanisole (BHA), and even propylene glycol. The first two are decidedly dicey additives, because they contain benzene rings and are suspected of being cancer-inducing. Propylene glycol is reportedly safe and is used widely as a food additive - but why would you add an industrial chemical to food, that is not a food in itself, and which needs to be broken down, and passed out of the body?

 

In addition, the food processing industry is still plagued by BPA (bisphenol-A) which is definitely a cancer-inducing chemical. However, BPA is still used widely as a protective lining in cans, to prevent the acids in foods from attacking and dissolving the metal in the cans. Tomatoes are a typical high-acid content food that require a strong protective lining in the can.

 

Buy Italian canned tomatoes at your risk - not only is the Mafia extensively involved in tomato production in Italy (growing tomato crops on land polluted by illegal dumping of toxic industrial chemicals, and controlling many tomato-processing plants, where illegal food additives are added) - but the colours and flavours added to Italian tomatoes are typically Tartrazine and other dubious synthetic colourings and flavourings.

You will find cans of Italian tomatoes advertising "no added colours or flavours" - but with the Mafia controlling nearly all tomato processing in Italy, would you believe implicitly what they state on their cans?

 

I have never seen anywhere, where processed foods imported into Australia are randomly checked for illegal additives or contaminants. The DAWE has an imported food inspection scheme in place that is "risk-based".

In other words, they decide whether a food is risky or not, and whether it needs to be extensively checked. If you're a food importer, you only have to convince the DAWE your food is safe, and very little further checking is carried out.

 

Random inspections would be a much better process. We have tight inspection regimes for drugs, yet multiple billions in drugs get through those tight inspection processes on a regular basis.

 

https://www.ndhealthfacts.org/wiki/Food_Colourings

 

https://www.agriculture.gov.au/import/goods/food/inspection-compliance/inspection-scheme#how-is-surveillance-food-tested

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Just another case of Governments making laws to protect its people ( a good thing) then withholding the resources to police them (a bad thing).

 

Once again I say.

2 hours ago, old man emu said:

Australia is a lucky country run mainly by second rate people who share its luck. It lives on other people's ideas, and, although its ordinary people are adaptable, most of its leaders (in all fields) so lack curiosity about the events that surround them that they are often taken by surprise.

 

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