FFN Opinion: Fire, water, food..

Future Farmers Network directors regularly give their opinion on the latest news, events and issues in agriculture for an article for Australian Community Media. Here’s the most recent yarn from FFN Director Oliver Le Lievre 

You’d be forgiven for thinking it’s something out of Captain Planet comic, but so far in 2020 it’s been a year of uncertainty for many Australians. In early January I wrote an article stating “The 20’s will be a pivotal decade for how we produce, move, and consume” and just two months on from that, it is evident that we are going to see a fundamental shift in how we operate as economies and people adjust in these uncertain times.

For those in rural Australia in particular, it’s been compounding. Firstly through extended drought, fires, then floods, and now Corona Virus. We have witnessed the absolute best of the human spirit, as communities rallied around each other during the Black Summer fires, and more recently as rains brought a lot of positivity back into the sector.

I’ve been watching the events surrounding the Corona virus unfold. I closely analysed the seafood market in January as it bottomed out within days of the virus gaining attention, highlighting how the reliance on a single market like China to underpin our export exacerbated the impacts. Now, closer to home, I’m genuinely feeling a bit of anxiety as the everyday behaviours and access we’re so well accustomed to are being removed. It’s putting perspective onto the fundamentals of life.

So what does it all mean for Australian agriculture?

To me, it has highlighted the necessity and importance of the bare essentials. Food and water are the fundamentals to the hierarchy of human needs, and when push comes to shove, people are going to go to desperate measures to look out for themselves.

From our seafood to grains, Australia produces enough food to feed about 70 million people, exporting approximately 60 per cent of what we produce. We produce high quality, safe produce that is grown under world leading standards. With 4.5 billion people on our doorstep in Asia, we have a lot of choices and option in who we can target, and also who will be demanding these standards.

Beyond just our produce, we can support agriculture through the validation of how we assure our products via technology as well as our expertise. FFN member Matt Champness has spent the last 12 months with the Crawford Fund working with rice farmers in Laos, assisting them to better manage their weeds, utilising a whipper snipper. His Australian ingenuity is transforming lives and communities, helping them become more food secure.

At the Future Farmers Network, our work has never been more important. We’re partnering with industry organisations to equip young people in agriculture to develop the skillsets to empower them to seek opportunities, build stronger relationships between communities, and better manage the volatility in the world we live in.

The world is changing before our eyes, the uncertainty is unsettling but it will not last. In the midst of global volatility, Australian agriculture is performing well – we have positivity in our livestock markets, grain prices are rallying, land prices have withstood these most recent tests, and we have a lot of amazing people within the ranks of agriculture – the world needs high quality, assured safe food and Australia is well positioned to capitalise on these opportunities.

On behalf of the FFN, please look after yourselves and each other.