Greens call for stronger country-of-origin labelling

Posted by Nicole Eckersley on 16th November 2010

Australian Greens Deputy Leader Christine Milne has called for more stringent and accurate labelling for locally produced and processed food, based on a strong response in the latest Roy Morgan poll on food labelling.

“The poll results released this week show 90 percent of Australians are more likely to buy food that is labelled as ‘Made in Australia,” she said.

“At face value, this groundswell of support for local food is encouraging, but as our struggling producers know, it is also a bitter pill because our food labelling laws allow for imported goods to be branded as Australian made.

“Current laws stipulate a food product need only have half of its production costs originate in Australia to qualify for the Australian Made brand. These costs include packaging, so it is not uncommon for supermarket shelves to be stocked with overseas grown food packed in Australia and misleadingly labelled.

“This not only dupes the well-intentioned consumer, but also short-changes the local producer who is being consistently undercut by cheap and inferior imports masquerading as Aussie made.

“This is already creating huge problems for Tasmanian farmers and the Australian made brand.

“The Roy Morgan poll clearly indicates that there is a very strong market for home grown and home made food, but if the brand becomes widely known as a disingenuous marketing ploy then it will lose much of its effectiveness.

“Conversely, the poll also indicates just six percent of respondents would actively purchase a Chinese made product if given a choice. Imagine the impact on the ‘Australian Made’ market if seemingly local ingredients are found to have arrived on a boat from China. It’s marketing suicide prevented only by a slight of hand.

“With truthful labelling local growers and producers will benefit from filling the gap usually reserved for imported goods, and they will also experience increased demand.

“This is made all the more pertinent considering Australia’s recent move into becoming a net importer of food. Our trade position has dropped a staggering $6.3 billion in just five years, revealing the urgent need for a fully implemented food security plan.

“Local producers, the economy and future generations are all dependent on truth in labelling. The government must act before the bubble bursts and Australian farmers are forced to leave the land and make overseas food the only option for consumers.”