Calls for a National Food and Grocery Agenda to ensure industry’s long-term future

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 8th April 2009

Australia must urgently adopt a National Food and Grocery Agenda to ensure the nation’s long-term health, food supply and to protect thousands of jobs, the leading organisation representing Australia’s food and grocery manufacturers has advised.

Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) Chief Executive, Kate Carnell, told the National Press Club in Canberra that Federal, State and Territory Governments must unite to fast-track new policy for Australia’s $70 billion industry food and grocery industry.

“We need a National Food and Grocery Agenda that will sustain the industry’s long-term future, protect the health of Australians and ensure future growth and jobs,” she contended. “The answer requires a major U-turn in thinking and strategic policy direction.”

Ms Carnell suggested that current legislation and responsibility relating to the food and grocery sector has been scattered in a haphazard way between several Federal Government departments.

“There is no whole-of-government approach to this industry, which is Australia’s biggest manufacturing sector, employing more than 200,000 Australians,” Ms Carnell advised. “We need a champion around the Cabinet table to push our case and protect Australia’s future.”

Ms Carnell noted that the products manufactured by Australia’s food and grocery sector are contained in more than 24 million meals, consumed by 20 million Australians every day – highlighting the importance of the industry currently facing many challenges including the global financial crisis, obesity, global food security and climate change.

“If the food and grocery industry suffers, everyone suffers – lives depend on both its existence and excellence. Food production, manufacturing and distribution systems must be safeguarded.”

The key elements of the national blueprint must include, according to the AFGC:
• Support for a robust and innovative food and grocery manufacturing sector that continues to be major exporter and employer
• Regulatory reform with a national approach to the enforcement of labelling
• A focus on food safety – the food we eat is safer than it has ever been but continuing vigilance is needed to maintain and improve standards
• A partnership with industry to encourage healthier diets through consumer education, product reformulation, the adoption of daily intake guide front of pack labelling and responsible advertising to children, and
• An environmentally sustainable food chain with a focus on better packaging, reuse of water, minimising food waste and energy usage and improving the efficiency supply chains.

Ms Carnell concluded that the new food and grocery blueprint must amalgamate the range of portfolios directly interfacing with the sector – agriculture, education, innovation, health, trade, environment and industry.