AUSVEG has welcomed the move made by Federal Government to scrap the $1.5 million Community Food Grant Program, an initiative which provided federal funding for community gardens and farmers markets, as initiated under the previous Labor Government’s National Food Plan in 2012.
“The Community Food Grant was established with the best of intentions, however in practice the program has been identified as a potential risk to the national horticulture industry,” said AUSVEG Public Affairs Manager William Churchill.
The initiative proved particularly worrisome for the horticulture industry, as projects enacted by individuals without proper education and training could potentially cause biosecurity or food safety concerns in the horticulture sector.
AUSVEG is the leading horticultural body representing Australia’s 9,000 vegetable and potato growers.
“Unfortunately, some community gardens in particular are simply not run to the same standards as professional horticultural operations, nor do they adhere to the same set of stringent checks and balances required of a commercial business. As a result, many community gardens are run down, and could potentially give the wrong impression of horticulture,” said Mr Churchill.
“Funding of this program would be better allocated to upgrading and improving the Department of Agriculture’s Manual of Importing Country Requirement (MICoR) website. Currently the website is clunky to use and prescribes ambiguous definitions. Comparatively, the New Zealand equivalent provides detailed information of import requirements, along with measurable tolerances to pests and diseases,” said Mr Churchill.
“If given a more specific set of tolerances, exporters would have added clarity and confidence about a receiving country’s phytosanitary requirements and this would drive export growth. Improving MICoR and breaking up export barriers would provide a much more positive impact in supporting the food industry than community gardens would have ever achieved,” said Mr Churchill.
25 February 2014