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Australia's Need for Food Security is a Fact, not Fiction

Firm News, Insight
27 March 2012
Baker & McKenzie launches report on key challenges and opportunities facing Australia's food industry

Australia, 27 March 2012 – Baker & McKenzie has launched a report, Food Security – fact or fiction? which focuses on Australia's food security and echoes calls for greater regulation in the retail sector and more transparency around foreign direct investment.

The firm surveyed 162 senior executives from 11 sectors across Australia to ascertain the hurdles their businesses face, and what actions governments and regulators need to take to ensure society continues to benefit from readily available food at prices consumers can afford.

Co-Head of Baker & McKenzie's Food and Agribusiness group, David Watson, said Australians can't afford to be complacent on the issue of food security.

"For most Australians, this debate seems academic as we produce an abundance of nutritious, safe and affordable food, but given our inter-connectivity to the rest of the world, food security should be as important to Australians as it is to our neighbours in the region.

"Significantly, half of our survey respondents highlighted foreign investment as a serious threat. Almost that number again said the Government should impose higher trade barriers to favour Australian commodities. This data indicates a protectionist streak within the industry," said Watson.

Head of the firm's Competition practice, Andrew Christopher, said survey respondents support more government intervention in the retail space where two grocery majors are having a significant impact on the supply chain.

"A competitive grocery sector is a key factor in ensuring long term food affordability as well as consumer choice and product innovation. The introduction of a supermarket ombudsman, as proposed by the Australian Food and Grocery Council, is a possible solution."

The Baker & McKenzie research also found that, despite consumer concerns, industry players welcome further government investment in R&D such as GM foods and biofuels.

Respondents also called for more regulation in the areas of food labelling, parallel importing and marketing claims, some suggesting the current regulatory framework is broken.

Watson concluded: "Our report identifies a level of concern about food security that should be addressed by both government and corporates so Australia can capitalise on its resources for generations to come."

Food Security – fact or fiction? was launched at the firm's Sydney office on 27 March 2012 and is Baker & McKenzie's third report in its Global Business Challenges series. 
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