Recent food system shocks such as bushfires, floods and drought, and the impact of Covid-19 on the harvesting and distribution of agricultural products, have drawn attention to Australia’s vulnerability to food insecurity. Alongside these new shocks old problems persist – such as the waste of up to 40 per cent of the food produced and a depleting environmental resource base as evidenced by the recent ecosystem crisis in the Murray-Darling Basin.
Based on recent research with food system actors in Australia and the broader literature on food security and sustainability – the deeper impact of Covid-19 and other ‘shocks’ such as fires, drought, floods are yet to be seen. Understanding how food production can accommodate shocks, secure farmers’ livelihoods and undertake the inevitable transition towards greater sustainability requires an evidence base informed by the lived experience of those that produce the food in these contexts. Considering the overwhelming importance of agriculture not only for Australia’s economy but even more so for its recently legislated climate commitments, a key question addresses how farmers will be able to provide secure, adequate and continuous supply of food and the public goods necessary to transition to low emission and low resource impact agrifood systems.
This research aims to understand the complex and inter-related systemic issues of shocks, security of food supply and long-term agricultural sustainability in Australia. It also presents an opportunity to subject the most recently published United Nations six-dimension framework of food security to an empirical examination.
Picture to the right – Credit: Flooded and rotten crop/Getty Images