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Putting food on the table

07 February 2014

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Peter Warr is the John Crawford Professor of Agricultural Economics. His research includes the Indonesian and Thai economies, especially the relationship between economic policy and poverty incidence.

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Governments need to invest in agricultural research and infrastructure to prevent future food security problems, a Crawford School expert has warned.

Speaking to Radio Australia Professor Peter Warr of Arndt-Corden Department of Economics at Crawford School of Public Policy has called for governments to take decisive action to tackle global food security threats.

“The important thing is to raise the productivity of agriculture within your country, so that more food can be produced without raising the domestic price,” he said.

“Food is not just one more commodity, it’s a product for which there’s no substitute. So it doesn’t matter how much you have of other stuff, if you don’t have enough to eat, then you’re in serious trouble and in the long term, if you don’t have enough to eat, you’re going to die.”

Warr said that changes need to be implemented now to ensure countries can continue to feed themselves and to prevent food security issues escalating in the future.

“The way to overcome that is to invest in agriculture, to invest in infrastructure that’s needed for raising productivity in agriculture, and in particular, to invest in agricultural research.

“In the recent decades, that’s been neglected. There’s been insufficient investment, particularly in agricultural research.”

Warr said that investment in agricultural research could be the reason that hunger has declined in Asia and that the rest of the world could learn from this.

“The number of hungry people has declined in Asia over the last 20 years, but in the rest of the world the number of hungry people has actually increased, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa.

“The Asian countries, particularly China and some other countries of Asia, have invested in agricultural research.

“[But] Western countries, [including] Australia, Canada, United States, have invested insufficient in agricultural research to maintain the growth of agricultural productivity long term,” he said.

Listen to the full interview:

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