Food Production and Administration

Dublin Core


Food Production and Administration


The food production and preservation industries of Australia had to revolutionise for Australia to assume the role of food arsenal of the allied world. The food industry revolution required extensive government administration.

Before the war agriculture and food industries had been organised within states,(1) therefore a new federal level of control was a major shift. The Australian Food Council, established in April 1942 and the Food Executive, a compact cabinet for food administration established in May 1943, worked with the Commonwealth Food Controller, J F Murphy, to create policies to coordinate production, manufacturing, and distribution.(2) Food supply was such a priority to the Australian government that in 1944-45 over £120,000,000 pounds was spent solely on food production – equal to the amount the 1939 Australia war budget,(3) and half of the total Australian national spending that year.(4)

These government administrations worked with US and British food experts as well as the CSIRO Food Preservation and Transport Division (DFP) to maximise food production and preservation with minimal manual labour and maximum nutrition.(5)

The food industry had to be entirely overhauled to accommodate the major task at hand. The canning industry saw the greatest advancements. Under American guidance canning achieved new levels of hygiene, consistency, and efficiency.(6) Food dehydration also majorly developed. Prior to the war food dehydration was a mystery in Australia, yet by the end of the war Australia was 15,000 tonnes(7) of dried food in 35 dehydration plants for the armed forces.(8) The food preservation industry expanded so greatly that munitions factories that had previously operated at food processing factories were reconverted to help the food front.(9)

Food production had to expand to supply the food processing factories with their required raw materials. Agricultural expansion faced many issues, primarily the lack of physical labour as many farmers and able men were in combative service.(10) To boost manpower, the government ordered the return of soldiers to work the land, established of the Women’s Land Army, employed willing prisoners of war,(11) and coordinated neighbouring farms to combine their labour.(12)

Other setbacks in agriculture included shortages in fertilizer, poor weather, and machinery shortages.(13) To combat this, synthetic fertilizers were developed, rationing was increased, and machinery was sent from America when possible.(14)

Even with these efforts, Australia still faced food shortages. Government was even accused of directly “starving Britain” as a result of ‘mismanagement’ of food.(15) However, Army representatives condemned these accusations as cheap political tactics against the Labor government.(16)

New foods were also brought to Australia to cater to the scope of nationalities she was providing for. The American troops introduced the sweet corn industry, as corn was a staple of the US diet.(17) Additionally, over 30,000 acres were used to produce rice for Asian nations previously supplied by Java and Myanmar after the latter were occupied by Japan.(18)

Through tireless administrative and scientific work, Australia was able to supply over 13 million people with food during the war, almost double the Australian population.(19) This major feat was accomplished thanks to cooperation by the citizens on the home front.

1. Howard Daniel and Minnie Bell, “Foreign Government and Politics:.” The American Political Science Review 38, 4 (1944): 710.
2. Daniel and Bell, “Food Front in Australia,” 712-713.
3. “Australia’s Food Job,” Cairns Post, 29 July 1944.|||l-availability=y%2Ff|||l-australian=y
4. “America Welcomes Honest John Curtin,” Bunyip, 14 April 1944.
5. Farrer, To Feed a Nation, 150.
6. Farrer, To Feed a Nation, 150-151.
7. “Australia’s Food Job,” Cairns Post, 29 July 1944.
8. Symons, One Continuous Picnic, 162.
And Farrer, To Feed a Nation, 150.
9. Daniel and Bell, “Food Front in Australia,” 716.
10. Daniel and Bell, “Food Front in Australia,” 712.
11. One Continuous Picnic 167
12. Daniel and Bell, “Food Front in Australia,” 712.
13. Daniel and Bell, “Food Front in Australia,” 716.
14. Daniel and Bell, “Food Front in Australia,” 716-18.
15. “Australia’s Food Policy Criticised,” Morning Bulletin, 14 October 1943.|||l-availability=y%2Ff|||l-australian=y
16. Ibin.
17. Symons, One Continuous Picnic, 162
And “Sweet Corn for the Troops,” Weekly Times (Melbourne), 10 March 1943.|||l-availability=y%2Ff|||l-australian=y
And “Sweet Corn for Soldiers,” The Inverell Times, 15 June 1942.|||l-availability=y%2Ff|||l-australian=y
18. Daniel and Bell, “Food Front in Australia,” 717.
and “Australia’s Food Job,” Cairns Post, 29 July 1944.|||l-availability=y%2Ff|||l-australian=y
19. “Episode 5: The WWII Diet,” SBS, accessed 29 September 2018,