In the near future we may be called on to step up to a challenge – and we should answer well and quickly when that time comes. Australia is forecast to produce around 20% of the world’s grain in 2008.
Australia will gain lasting friends around the world if it’s citizens and government step up to the challenge without a second thought, buy the best part of cereal production at a good price (grain growers are price takers and will happily agree to stable business).
If the government can secure 30 million tonnes (apx. 75%) of cereal from Australia farmers and ship this to countries of need, 100 million people could receive 300kg of grain a year, feeding them approximately 2,500 calories of staple carbohydrates and protein, more than enough for an active working adult. If the cereal types are mixed before shipment to include staples of wheat, barley, soy, and possibly additional legumes, and complimented with locally grown fruit and vegetables, full nutrition can be achieved.
This would cost approximately $7 billion per year, or around 300 dollars per Australian (based on payment direct to farmer at $250 a tonne). Alternatively the diets of hungriest 300 million people can be supplemented with 100kg/yr or apx 820 calories per day.
Even if Australia’s grain production is significantly less than forecast, we will be able to make a great difference to 100 million people. In the case of 20mt of grain being supplied, 100 million people could be supplemented with 820 calories at the cost of $2.5 billion.
Packages should be made available to help current producers switch to more productive cereal produce or to contribute to reducing Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions by turning farmland to forest- thus turning from carbon emission to carbon storage (which may provide more stable income under a national emissions carbon scheme). We can use this opportunity to fine tune our economy for a less wasteful and more sustainable future.
This may result in looses for some sectors of the community, but in general, stopping mass wastage and starting human empathy will have material boons for everyone. We must see past economic rationalism and recognise the great human urgency of the modern situation. If necessary we could put this to referendum.
Alistair A. Dark
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