Windsor Farm in Cowra, New South Wales, has reportedly been placed into Voluntary Administration yesterday, a move which will cause the last wholly Australian owned cannery to shut its doors.
A source of employment for 70 people in its Cowra factory, as well as for vegetable growers in the area, the loss of Windsor Farm is another nail in the coffin for Australia’s food processing sector.
“The loss of Windsor Farm is another crushing blow to the already struggling food processing sector that is trying to stand up under the enormous pressure placed on it from imported foods and the retail sector,” said AUSVEG CEO Mr Richard Mulcahy.
AUSVEG is the National Peak Industry Body representing Australia’s 9,000 vegetable and potato growers.
Windsor Farm has been a mainstay of the Cowra area since the Second World War where in 1943 the one millionth can rolled off the production line feeding Australian and US soldiers in the Pacific theatre.
“This is the second agribusiness to close in as many weeks, after the liquidation of Basacar produce in Bundaberg last week, and a string of others over the past 12 months. The Labor Government needs to stop its rhetoric about Food Plans, Asian Centuries and voluntary retail codes and implement programs that ensure the continuity of Australian jobs and the food manufacturing sector,” said Mr Mulcahy.
The thousand cuts to Windsor Farms which bought it to its knees have come in many forms.
Unsupportive retail environments with no long term goals and short term contracts on generic home brand goods haven’t allowed the company to reinvest in itself and innovate. Windsor Farm has been unable to negotiate for better prices on canned goods but was constantly requested to lower prices when compared internationally to cheaper manufacturing countries.
An increasingly difficult export market with a high dollar and increases to the Australian Quarantine Inspection Service export licenses from $500 to $8,300 have added to the pain.
“There is a litany of circumstances that prevent our food manufacturing sector from reaching its potential and keeping Australian jobs here, and unless government policies are able to address a lack of retail competition domestically we will continue to see this scenario unfold in regional Australia,” said Mr Mulcahy.
“Not every finger can be pointed at the supermarket duopoly but there needs to be proper competition in the retail space if food manufacturers and producers are expected to survive. These can be achieved through programs like a supermarket ombudsman such as that found in the United Kingdom and Government should listen to these calls from industry,” said Mr Mulcahy.