A question many of us ask when we look at supermarket shelves and produce markets is "where does Australia import food from"?
Australia is blessed with a natural environment and climate conducive to growing and producing a great range of high quality food, from fruit, nuts and vegetables to dairy, to seafood and livestock.
Yet, to maintain consistent supply and satisfy year-round demand, Australia also needs to import a wide variety of food products into the country every year.
Thanks to location-based analytics, you can determine where our food comes from by looking at our Story Map of the world.
Interactive maps are available to explore for both processed and unprocessed imports. Click on a country to see a list of the food types imported from that country, and click on the graphs in the left hand column to see the top 10 countries listed in order of import priority.
View Story Map
With recent food tampering incidents in Australia, such as the strawberry needle contamination case in September 2018, plus the threat of listeria contamination from Christmas hams and rockmelons, the provenance and origin of food is in the spotlight more than ever before.
The Story Map uses GIS technology to analyse and visualise data from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). If you look at the original data source, you can see that the Excel spreadsheet contains complex information. Translating it onto a map presents a geographic view that helps bring context to the data.
The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Science (ABARES) recently reported that since the late 1980s, food imports have been increasing by 4.8% a year on average, now accounting for 15% of Australia’s total food consumption.
Australia is now a net importer (that is, we import more than we export) in six food categories: seafood, processed fruit and vegetables, soft drink, cordials and syrup, confectionary, bakery products and oils and fats.
Some of the insights in the Story Map are surprising. Did you know that Vietnam is our third biggest supplier in the category of unprocessed vegetables, fruit and nuts? Or that Bolivia and Peru rank third and fourth for unprocessed cereal grains? (Hello, quinoa!)
There are also insights confirming what many of us already know: New Zealand is our main source of imported fresh seafood, dairy products and livestock. And for the chocolate lovers out there, you’ll be thrilled to see that Belgium makes it into number ten spot under the sugars, honey, coffee, cocoas and confectionery category.
The map – and the corresponding data – contains many more fascinating insights, so check it out to make sure you know where your next meal is coming from.