Without strategic food policy in Australia nearly one million jobs would be at risk, and the duopoly of Coles and Woolworths is partly to blame, a new report has found.
According to the Commission for the Human Future, Coles and Woolworths control around 60 per cent of fresh food and grocery sales, and Kirin controls around 80 per cent of Australia’s drinking milk.
Weston Foods and Goodman Fielder control around 70 to 75 per cent of the bread and bakery markets, and processing facilities are also increasingly concentrated among few big companies.
But a food system that depends on just a few corporate interests “creates perverse outcomes”, the report found, “particularly the squeezing of procedures and processors’ margins”.
“It forces them to prioritise efficiency and output at the expense of healthy and environmentally sustainable practices,” the report stated.
The current food system is degrading soil, water and biodiversity - and climate change is also taking its toll.
“Agriculture is responsible for about 23 per cent of Australia’s total greenhouse gas emissions, 70 per cent of which are due to livestock, soils, burning and manure, with the rest due to the sector’s use of energy and transport,” the report stated.
“The 7.3 million tons of food Australia wastes every year alone accounts for more than 5 per cent of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions and 1,460 billion litres of lost water.”
The negative impacts of our food system are currently costing the Aussie economy at least $87 billion per year - $62 billion from obesity, $21 billion from food waste and $4 billion in the loss of productivity from land degradation.
A new approach to food policy would protect the security of over one million jobs, and would reduce the economic burden in health and environmental harm from food production and consumption, the report stated.
The Commission suggested an approach based on four key pillars: health, sustainability, economic viability and resilience.
“The Australian Government must recognise that it requires a strategic approach to food policy,” the report said.
“Although the Federal Government is not responsible for policy development and implementation across the entire food system, the Government’s role is to set the policy and governance frameworks so that states and territories, farmers, producers, processors, retailers, employees, communities and individuals can build a food system fit to meet the future.”
A Coles spokesperson told Yahoo Finance it values its suppliers, and had taken steps to improve its relationships with them.
“We are also creating long-term partnerships with our suppliers so that they have the security to invest in their businesses for greater efficiencies so that we all benefit – the suppliers, Coles, and our customers,” the spokesperson said.
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