The vast majority of food sold in Australia is grown and supplied by Australian farmers. The Australian Office of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Science (ABARES) recently reported that, since the late 1980s, food imports have increased by 4.8% per year on average, and now account for 15% of Australia's total food consumption. However, to maintain consistent supply and meet demand throughout the year, Australia also needs to import a wide variety of food products into the country each year. Agricultural and food companies rely on foreign workers for many key tasks, making the food sector particularly sensitive to changes in temporary work visas.
However, despite being a net exporter of food, Australia also imports foods such as coffee, chocolate, processed fruits and vegetables and key ingredients that are used to bake our daily bread. Australia is fortunate to have a natural environment and climate conducive to growing and producing a wide variety of high-quality foods, from fruits, nuts and vegetables to dairy products, seafood and livestock. In addition to providing food and nutrition security, the Australian food sector is a key driver of public health, the environment, the economy and employment. Placing the consumer at the center of healthy, sustainable and ethical food systems will become increasingly important, whether that consumer lives in Brisbane or Beijing.
Horticultural production (fruits, nuts and vegetables) will increase as Australian producers act to meet growing Asian demand. Research highlighting the interconnections between food, health and the environment will be needed to support Australia's claims to be a clean and environmentally friendly food provider. Supermarkets and grocery stores continue to hold most of the retail food market share, at around 66%. Population growth has a profound impact on Australian life, and separating myths from facts can be difficult.
The results of a recent survey show that Australian consumers are adopting a back-to-basics mindset, focusing on simple ingredients and less artificial or processed foods.