Australia’s new government is facing pressure from the Opposition to scrap a controversial government program that will help millions of people get rid of imported browns.
The government has already announced a new $1 billion investment to help the world’s largest food exporter import its brown rice.
But opposition MPs are calling on the Government to cancel the program, which they say will hurt consumers.
The Opposition said the program is a waste of taxpayer money, while the Greens have said it will be cheaper for Australia to buy Australian produce from other countries.
In a statement, the Government said it was “aware of the Opposition’s concerns” and said the government was “committed to maintaining Australia’s position as the world leader in food production”.
The Opposition called for a national ban on imports of imported rice and said there should be a cap on the amount of rice that could be imported per person.
“This is an investment in our future that will support the nation’s rice production and export capacity, while providing the Australian people with affordable and reliable food,” the statement said.
The Opposition’s comments come after a new report found that Australia is importing far more rice than is needed, as well as buying rice from China. “
While we will continue to work closely with the industry to ensure that the rice industry is able to keep its place in the global food supply chain, it is clear from our discussions with the Government that the current policy is not working.”
The Opposition’s comments come after a new report found that Australia is importing far more rice than is needed, as well as buying rice from China.
Dr Tim Pecoraro from the University of Queensland, who led the research, said the Government needed to take action to reduce the amount that was being imported.
“The Government is looking to import about 100,000 tonnes a year, that is about five per cent of our rice production,” he said.
He said there were two main reasons for this.
First, “the government is not importing as much rice as it should be”.
Second, “there is a very high level of Chinese imports.”
He said the bulk of that rice was from a small group of Asian countries.
“In the last 12 months, the Chinese market has been very, very strong,” he told ABC Radio Melbourne.
“We have been able to sell rice from those markets.”
Dr Pecararo said Australia had to be careful not to import more rice, and to stop buying it from countries that were not producing rice at a level that was sustainable.
“If we are going to import rice, then we have to get rid, we have got to get our act together and get our domestic rice out of those rice markets,” he added.
The Government says the program will help the Australian economy grow and the Government says it will also help farmers to keep their farms growing.
But the Opposition has said the $1.4 billion investment will be spent on “a $20 billion rice export program” which it said would be cheaper than buying Australian produce.
The ABC has sought comment from the Government.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Agriculture said it would not comment on political matters.
“Farmers are committed to the food security of their communities, and will continue the support they have received in the past year,” she said.
The Australian Wheat Board says Australia is the second-largest producer of wheat in the world.
The Board says the Government has also “commented on the need to continue to import the grain from China”.
It also says it has received a “significant amount of support” from other government departments and agencies.
A spokesman for the Wheat Board said it has been “very supportive of the Wheat Council and its initiatives to promote international trade”.
The spokesman said Wheat Council members have received a total of $8.8 million in subsidies, “including $1 million in wheat subsidies”.
The Wheat Council says Australia should be buying more Australian wheat, and is pushing the Government on the matter.
“Our Wheat Council is also calling for a nationwide ban on all imports of wheat and all rice,” the spokesman said.
A Wheat Council spokeswoman said the organisation is “very concerned” by the Government’s response to the ABC’s questions.
“Given that our members are working hard and trying to make sure our crops are being used, the Wheat Commission has also raised concerns about Australia’s current policies,” she told ABC Breakfast.
“For us to get on top of the issues, which we are still facing, we need to move forward.”
In the statement, Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce said that, if the Government decides to continue importing, the rice program will be phased out over the coming years.
“Once the rice is finished, the wheat will come in and we will then be able to have the full amount of wheat coming in at that time,” he explained.
“At that point we will move to