The announcement yesterday that food manufacturer Gourmet Food Holdings – which owns the iconic Australian brand Rosella – has entered into voluntary administration has raised deep concern from AUSVEG, the National Peak Industry Body representing Australia’s 9,000 vegetable and potato growers.
“The loss of yet another food processer could have large ramifications for the Australian food production sector, which is already struggling as a result of the high Australian dollar and cheap processed food products being imported from overseas,” said AUSVEG Spokesperson, Hugh Gurney.
“The food processing industry employs around a quarter of a million people in this country, so to see iconic Australian brands like Rosella entering into voluntary administration is very concerning, not just for Australian vegetable and potato growers but for the entire economy,” said Mr Gurney.
A receivership statement released by Ferrier Hodgson yesterday stated it would be engaging in discussions with stakeholders to determine whether operations can be continued.
“The past 18 months have seen the collapse or closure of a number of prominent vegetable growing and processing operations in Australia and we hope that this fate can be avoided with Rosella,” said Mr Gurney.
“We want to work alongside the Federal Government to ensure that greater support for local food production is provided, otherwise there is a good chance that our nation may lose the ability to grow and process food in the future, placing the food security of future Australians at risk,” said Mr Gurney.
“Recent research conducted by AUSVEG has shown that 80% of consumers purchase Australian produce because they want to support Australian farmers and for Australia to have a viable industry, however, if local operations continue to enter into receivership, this may no longer be an option,” said Mr Gurney
A large amount of processed tomato product on Australian shelves originates from Italy, where growers enjoy a cheaper cost of labour and receive a European Union (EU) subsidy to protect their industry. Potato producers in the EU also receive similar subsidies.
“It is shocking to think of a food industry in Australia without a classic Australian brand such as Rosella, and action is desperately required to reverse this trend before all of our food is produced overseas,” said Mr Gurney.
“If the Australian food processing sector continues to struggle, we could be facing a future where we can’t even enjoy a locally produced meat pie with tomato sauce at the footy, due to the closure of local food production operations,” said Mr Gurney.