Time to get our act together and tell it like it is OZ farmers

Today’s blog post is in the main a refection on this article by Mick Keogh (reprinted below) from the Australian Farm Institute “Australian Food is probably better and cheaper than US Food but Australian farmers just don’t tell anybody”

As part of the Archibull Prize we undertake entry and exit surveys to get an understanding of what young Australians today think about agriculture and farmers 

As part of the survey we ask the students if they think food in this country is too expensive. We use content like this post to raise awareness and then ask the question again in the exit survey

As you can see from these graphs (entry survey on top left and the question do you think food in this country is too expensive is in blue) we are cutting through slowly but surely.

Slowly we believe is because the misconception that food in this country is too expensive is not rebutted by farmers and promoted by individuals with an agenda that says food at rock bottom prices ( and to hell with the consequences to farmers, their livestock and the environment) is a birth rite in this country  .   

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Food as a percentage of income in Australia is 10% according to http://cironline.org/reports/map-world-food-statistics-2971

Food for 9B OZ 

  In the US on the other hand food as a percentage of income according to the same source is 6.4%

Food for 9B US

Mick Keogh in this article challenges the accuracy of the US stats

While travelling through the USA and talking to both farmers and agricultural policymakers, it is not uncommon to hear the claim being made that US farmers produce the cheapest and the best food in the world, and for that reason US consumers should be grateful, and the US government should maintain current farm support policies. Given the unfailing generosity and courtesy of people involved in US agriculture it would be rude to challenge that assertion, but it does raise the question of whether such claims are valid. 

A careful comparison of US and Australian food prices would be a major task, and no doubt the comparison would vary depending on seasons and relative abundance of different products in different locations. However, a quick and dirty (and statistically invalid) comparison reveals an interesting result. 

Using the online prices advertised by one major Australian retailer for a select basket of basic grocery items and comparing those with the prices charged in-store for (as near as possible) identical items in a major US grocery retail outlet, and including adjustments for sales tax (not included in US grocery shelf prices) and relative exchange rates, the following graph displays the differences in prices per standard unit (Kg, Litre, dozen, standard weight loaf) in percentage terms. 

Grocery prices

Meat items were generally cheaper in Australia, fruit was generally cheaper in the US (although that varies by location), vegetables were mixed, and milk and home-brand white bread was markedly cheaper in Australia.

For the full ‘basket’ of items, assuming a consumer purchased one unit (Kg, Litre, dozen, loaf) of each item, the total cost in Australia was 14% less than the cost for the US consumer.

As noted, this is not in any way a statistically valid comparison, but as a quick snapshot it seems to indicate that food prices in Australia may in fact be marginally cheaper than those in the USA. And when it comes to quality of fresh produce, first impressions are that the quality of trim, packaging and products are generally better in Australia than the product on offer in the USA. This applies in particular to dairy and meat products (and to coffee, which is absolutely atrocious in the US!).

One of the major differences observed between farmers in the two nations is that Australian farmers are generally more reticent about proclaiming how good they are at what they do, and seem less willing to make claims about how cheap and good food is in Australia, compared to other nations. 

Perhaps its time Australian farmers and the agriculture sector started to more actively promote the benefits they provide for Australian consumers, and the advantages more generally for consumers who buy Australian farm products.

Another great article by Mick on how we could do promotion better can be found here