Thursday, January 13, 2011

Queensland Floods and Food Security

The short term impact of the severe flooding throughout Queensland is devastating. Even to those who have just lost property and not loved ones, the scars of this experience will last a lifetime.

The long term effects will filter through to us all.

Many areas of Queensland currently under water grow a large proportion of Australia's food supply. Unfortunately, replanting can't begin as soon as the waters recede. The ground will need time to dry out and so will the equipment. A lot of equipment will have to be replaced, too. Seed stocks will no doubt have to be replaced and fodder for livestock will also be a problem. It could be 12 months or more before these regions are planting again.

What does that mean for the rest of us?

It means we'll be facing short supplies, strong demand and high prices for fresh food. When the tonnes of fresh produce grown in Queensland as well as commodity foods like corn and sugar are removed from the supply chain there will be shortfalls. Certain items might not make it to the supermarket at all, for example: tomatoes might go straight to the food processors.

How can we soften the blow to our budgets?

The most obvious first step is to ramp up your vegie garden (if you have one) or at the very least plant a couple of vegie 'pots'. Any options available to add fresh food to your table for the least cost are worth exploring.

The next step is to consider the state of your pantry. Do you maintain a stockpile? It's always worth buying items you use regularly in bulk, if you can. That can mean going to a wholesaler to buy 10kg bags of flour or just buying extra from the supermarket when items are on special. Maintaining a reserve of the basics enables you to ride out the high prices caused by temporary disruptions. It's also an insurance policy against being 'shut in' for any reason.

The next 12 months will be a lesson in 'making do' for a lot of us. Food security will become a headline issue and will hopefully create a new awareness of the need for greater self-reliance in food production. We'll also become much more aware of the fragility of our supply lines and 'just in time' delivery schedules as the interruptions to transportation will affect our food security just as much as the loss of crops. Ultimately, what we do with this knowledge is up to us.

Our thoughts are with those people directly affected by the tragedy of these devastating floods.

You can donate to the Premier's Flood Relief Appeal here.

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