The House Standing Committee on Agriculture enquiry into food security has recommended the government implement a tax incentive program based on the Food Waste Tax Incentive that was developed by KPMG and the Fight Food Waste CRC.
In a sweeping list of 35 recommendations, the committee chaired by Labor MP Meryl Swanson, no area of the country’s food production system was not considered.
The panel’s remit was to look at how Australia’s food security could be strengthened and safeguarded, focusing on production, supply chains and key inputs, climate change, biosecurity, and food insecurity.
Key recommendations for food and beverage manufacturers:
- creating a comprehensive National Food Plan;
- appointing a Minister for Food;
- establishing a National Food Council;
- developing a National Food Supply Chain Map;
- measures to facilitate innovation in the production of food; and
- measures to eliminate food waste including a Food Waste Tax.
The primary recommendation was the establishment of a National Food Plan, with Swanson explaining it would engage the whole food system, from paddock to plate and beyond.
“It will deal with the production and distribution of food, supply chain resilience, access to food, good nutrition (diet and health), and the management and disposal of food waste and other waste products. It will address the health implications of the food system.
“It will also address the national security implications of food security – identifying and addressing vulnerabilities, particularly regarding food system infrastructure and vital inputs,” Swanson said.
Linked into the national plan would be the Minister for Food, supported by the National Food Council.
“The National Food Council, made up of industry and community experts, would advise the Minister for Food on matters pertaining to the food system, and support the development, implementation, monitoring, and evolution of the National Food Plan. As part of this process, the food supply chain should be mapped and vulnerabilities in the supply chain identified and addressed,” she said.
The National Food Supply Chain map that would identify:
- where products are grown or produced and in what quantity;
- how they are transported;
- where they are processed;
- what the major transport routes are;
- the main centres for the collection and distribution of product;
- where transport routes are vulnerable; and
- what happens if they are cut.
This map should also identify key inputs and vulnerabilities to lack of supply, and the government consider options for technical innovation in the collection, access to and dissemination of the information and data.
It also recommended making the Food and Grocery Code of Conduct mandatory and reviewing the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 to ensure fair practices between different actors in the food supply chain and prevent unconscionable conduct. It also recommended instituting regular Australian Competition and Consumer Commission reviews of perishable food supply chains.
Food waste recommendations
“The committee recommends that the Australian Government provide an incentive through the tax system for those who donate food or related services, based on the Food Waste Tax Incentive developed by KPMG and the Fight Food Waste Cooperative Research Centre,” the report said.
In looking at ways to eliminate food waste – that would be incorporated into the proposed National Food Plan – the committee listed:
- A national public education campaign aimed at the elimination of household food waste;
- repurposing food waste—for example as animal feed or processed food;
- supporting food donation;
- establishing regional food hubs;
- better management of the cold chain;
- improving data sharing across the food supply chain;
- increasing federal funding for the food relief sector; and
- creating a circular economy.
In her introduction, Swanson said, “Addressing food waste is a key aspect of improving food security. Tonnes of food worth billions of dollars goes to waste every year. Finding ways to prevent food waste and better utilise waste food is critical.
“There are significant opportunities both to prevent waste, through more efficient supply chains; and better utilise waste food, including through novel foods, animal feed and bioenergy. Better connecting vulnerable food consumers with the supply chain through food donation is one means of achieving this.”
Following on from this the committee also recommended the government work with industry to “develop a viable system for the recovery and recycling of plastic packaging” and with the food system to review the use of ‘best before’ and ‘use by’ dates on food and consider the use of QR codes to covey information to consumers.
It also put forward the idea of a research program that is focused on the development of a circular food economy.
Innovation and food future
The committee recommended that as part of the National Food Plan a specific strategy be developed for expanding innovation and value adding in food production, with a view to enhancing commercial opportunities for Australian industry and enhancing food security, as well as mechanisms to promote innovation in food production.
Swanson said, “Innovation has the capacity to improve, and in some directions revolutionise, the production of food. There are real opportunities for value adding within the food supply chain, increasing food security and economic development. Opportunities for expanding innovation and value adding in food production must be pursued, with a view to increasing productivity and enhancing food security.
“New industries – such as alternative proteins, protected cropping, and vertical farming – have the capacity to enhance food security while promoting economic development and increased employment. Governments at all levels should commit to supporting these new industries.”
Swanson also said there needed to be a focus on skills development and encouraging people to see the wide range of careers available in the food sector, especially those at the cutting edge of technical and scientific innovation.
“Food production is much more than growing crops, even when you are growing crops,” she said.
Two production sectors were called out as needed government attention – the reinvigoration of the dairy industry and expanding the seafood sector in an economically and environmentally sustainable way.
The full report is here.