Food Crisis

Reporter: Andrea Burns

Fresh, locally grown fruit and vege.. It's something we all take for granted, but they could soon disappear from our plates. "I think when populations around the world or even around Australia starts to find that products are not on the shelves like they have been - then it becomes a BIG issue. " Angelo Lojudice has been working the land for 26 years, but he fears his farming days in WA's southwest are numbered. "Farmers are generally happy people. They might whinge, but they whinge because there is a problem"

The squeeze is getting worse. Skyrocketing fuel, fertiliser and labour costs make it almost impossible for farmers to cover their expenses. "I could paint you a picture that we would be incapable on a profit basis to supply vegetables to the people of Western Australia. "Vegetables WA president Jim Turley warns farmers are struggling to compete against cheaper foreign imports. "Now if this whole thing collapses, you're going to be subjected to product from overseas that has dubious safety aspects associated with it - which we've seen in the past."

"It's about providing the West Australian consumer with the opportunity to make an informed choice about whether this is or is not a west australian product. Agriculture & Food Minister Kim Chance recently launched the 'Buy West Eat Best' scheme. "I always thought an Australian consumer isn't going to differentiate between snowpeas from New South Wales or snowpeas from Western Australia. But clearly I got that wrong."

Jim Turley says "People will pay for quality and always have. And they want fresh homegrown product from Western Australia - where it's traceable, where we know who grows it, we know what goes into it" But GETTING that produce to them is now easier said than done... The state has already lost two thirds of its fruit and vege growers and many more will follow. And while every family's feeling the pinch of paying more, Angelo insists farmers aren't taking the cash. He blames supermarkets. Angelo says "I don't believe the consumer is getting a fair price. They're actually paying way too much compared to what growers and farmers are getting"

"Certainly, the global figures indicate that in the last three years we have seen on an average 83% increase in prices" UWA's Professor Kadambot Siddique is an expert in agriculture and warns the food crisis is GLOBAL. "The food prices generally will increase - whether it is globally or in WA or Australia" That means in poorer countries, more and more people will starve.

The food crisis is being caused by the perfect storm, a combination of factors never seen before: rapid population growth, high oil prices, the biofuel industry's demand for crops and global warming. The medicine might be as painful as the cure, at least in the short term. The world will need to find new ways to farm and new fuels for industry and transport, and dealing with climate change quickly.