The influx of cheap imported produce onto the Australian market is continuing to rise and place significant pressure on local producers.
A new report from the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) has indicated that processed fruit and vegetables contributed up to 15 per cent of food imports between 2010 and 2012, with New Zealand produce making up the bulk of the imports.
According to ausveg.com.au, the value of imported processed fruit and vegetables has increased by $264 million over a five year period.
AUSVEG spokesperson, Hugh Gurney believes that the government needs to take action in order to secure a future for Australian growers.
“Our sector is facing a crisis. Like dominoes, Australian food processors are toppling over in their tracks. Government action is critical if we want to continue to feed our own country into the very near future,” said Gurney.
Gurney believes that the increase of imports may result in significant health risks as New Zealand imports Chinese produce which is then exported to Australian shores using confusing labelling techniques.
“New Zealand imports Chinese produce, processes it in New Zealand and exports it to countries like Australia under the guise of ‘Made in New Zealand with local and imported ingredients’.” He said
“The safety and quality of vegetables produced in China cannot be guaranteed because they are not grown to the strict standards required here in Australia. It has been reported that Chinese farmers have sprayed produce with formaldehyde – a toxic chemical used to preserve human flesh – to preserve it during periods of unrefrigerated transport.”
Gurney believes a complete overhaul of the Country of Origin Labelling legislation should be made in order to help consumers make educated decisions at the checkout.
The new report has come at a sensitive time for Australian producers as farming operations across the continent are either in receivership or extreme distress due to the rising Aussie dollar and the continuation of adverse weather conditions.
Image courtesy of Andrew Stawarz via flickr