The Australian vegetable industry today has endorsed calls from SPC Ardmona Managing Director Peter Kelly for Emergency Safeguard action to be put in place out of concerns for the damage and injury being caused to the local horticultural industry. Emergency Safeguard actions which are permitted under the World Trade Organisation rules would impose an emergency tax on cheap imported foods where domestic industries are suffering injury.
“The Australian horticulture industry is suffering from massive injury to its industries with the flood of imported produce that is wrecking regional businesses, employers and families and we support the calls for emergency taxes on cheap imported food,” said AUSVEG Public Affairs Manager William Churchill.
AUSVEG is the National Peak Industry Body representing Australia’s 9,000 vegetable and potato growers.
As in today’s The Australian newspaper, fruit growers in the Goulburn Valley are calling new cuts to their contracts a “decapitation”.
“Decapitation couldn’t be a more accurate description of the situation we are facing here in Australia. We are seeing a consistent message of despair around the country as more and more farmers are being paid less and less for their produce as processors here in Australia try to compete on cost,” said Mr Churchill.
For farmers and processors, Australia is becoming an extremely difficult environment to grow and process food in. In a Federal Department of Agriculture report released this year, data shows that imported fruit and vegetables has increased by $264 million over the past five years.
“In this current economic climate other countries are able to use Australia as a dumping ground for product and wipe out local competition allowing them to monopolise supply. If the local competition is exterminated we’ll have no other choice but to import all of our food,” said Mr Churchill.
“This not only raises uncertainties around the future of many regional economies who survive on agriculture, but also raises questions about Australia’s food security,” said Mr Churchill.
AUSVEG is calling on the Federal Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig and Trade Minister Dr Craig Emerson to implement the safeguard actions while the government is setting up the Anti-Dumping Commission that Prime Minister Gillard announced last December.
“The injury being caused to industry by dumped produce is so significant that many processors are questioning their future here in Australia,” said Mr Churchill.
Vegetable processor Windsor Farm, located in Cowra NSW, went into voluntary administration in March this year, months after iconic sauce company Rosella also shut its doors. Windsor Farm made canned tomato soup from local tomato growers for Rosella.
“If the Government was to do one thing to truly benefit agriculture it would be implementing these safeguards,” said Mr Churchill.