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Food Security in Australia: Some Misplaced Enthusiasms?


Correspondence: Alistair Watson, Centre for Water Policy and Management, La Trobe University, Wodonga, Vic. 3689, Australia. Email:


Previous papers in this issue of Economic Papers have dealt with some substantive issues surrounding food security. The purpose of this article was different. We provide a general commentary on other Australian agricultural policy issues where the rhetoric of food security is used to exaggerate the challenges faced and/or to support solutions to some challenges that are expensive and unrealistic. This article comprises opinion based on historical observations of the agricultural policy process in Australia and the underlying principles of mainstream agricultural economics. It does not offer detailed empirical analysis of the issues discussed. The issues discussed are irrigation in the Murray–Darling Basin, prospects for agricultural production in northern Australia, especially irrigation development, the bias in favour of further processing of agricultural products (value adding), food imports and foreign ownership, and the effects of Asian economic development on Australian agriculture and agricultural trade.