Food subsidies mooted for remote communities as 'a human rights issue'

This can of meat and onions cost $7.87 in this remote store, but can be bought for $3 a can in city and town supermarkets.

This can of meat and onions cost $7.87 in this remote store, but can be bought for $3 a can in city and town supermarkets.

People shopping for food at their supermarket have been asked to compare the prices people in remote communities are forced to pay.

Spam, indigestible for some but a long-life staple for others, can cost about $5 a can ($5.50 in Darwin today).

A can of stew may retail for $3 or $2.50 in Darwin today.

But travel into the outback the stew will cost almost $8 and the Spam, $7.50.

Two kilograms of chicken cuts in the community store at Barunga near Katherine in the NT cost $9.40.

At Beswick, another Aboriginal community just 25km away, the same product cost $16.80 - almost double.

On Thursday Island in the Torres Strait, a loaf of bread can cost $9 but less than $2 in a supermarket.

This is why the Australia Medical Association wants the Federal Government to look at subsidising the cost of the food in remote communities both to secure supplies, and provide nutritional options.

This is just some of the information contained in submissions to the Federal Parliament's Indigenous Affairs Committee into whether decent food is being sold at reasonable prices.

The AMA said it came down to a human rights issue.

"The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations asserts that food security exists 'when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life," the AMA's submission says.

A can of Spam for $7.50 in a remote store, or around $5 in other supermarkets.

A can of Spam for $7.50 in a remote store, or around $5 in other supermarkets.

"Based on this declaration, it can be considered that food security for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia has not yet been achieved."

The AMA provided the information in the disparity of prices in remote stores from Barunga and Beswick from a pricing sample provided by the Aboriginal Investment Group in May this year.

"Despite the lower incomes of people living in remote areas, they pay the highest average price for food in Australia," the AMA says.

"Research has consistently found that healthy food baskets cost about 20-43 per cent more in remote areas than in major cities, and in some Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities it has been estimated that 34-80 per cent of the family income is needed to purchase healthy diets."

The affordability of food in remote towns is affected by the tyranny of distance and the lack of competition, the NSW Aboriginal Land Council said.

"In addition to partnering with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to support locally-led solutions, another key role for government in addressing food security is applying consumer protection laws to ensure food is affordable and stores are not price gouging," the council said.

One organisation said the high prices did not just impact on humans but their pets as well, with vastly inflated prices for pet food had to afford for most.

Read the submissions here.

This story Food subsidies mooted for remote communities as 'a human rights issue' first appeared on Katherine Times.