Industry issues on the menu for Food Plan

Posted by Nicole Eckersley on 2nd March 2011

Federal Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig’s announcement to consult Australia’s food and grocery manufacturing industry on key issues to develop a National Food Plan has been welcomed by the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) today.

Speaking at the ABARES Outlook Conference yesterday, Senator Ludwig said an issues paper would form the first step in designing the Food Plan to help ensure the long-term sustainability and future growth of agri-foods and Australia’s largest manufacturing sector – food and grocery.

AFGC Chief Executive Kate Carnell said industry consultation was vital in highlighting the significant pressures and major challenges currently facing food and grocery manufacturers, including rising imports, retailer margins and increasing input costs.

“Industry is under immense pressures, so it’s encouraging that Government wants to listen and adopt a broad-base and long-term strategic framework to ensure this vital sector – employing 288,000 Australians remains competitive and continues to grow,” Ms Carnell said.

“Australians want a robust local food production and value-add processing sector – they don’t want to be increasingly reliant on cheap imports for our food supply.”

AFGC Chief Executive Kate Carnell currently sits on the Federal Government’s National Food Plan working group to advise on a strategic policy framework for Australia’s food industry.  Some of the key issues industry has already raised include having:

  • A clear vision for the agri-food sector and how it can contribute the good of the nation in the medium to long term;
  • A whole of government commitment to appropriate policy settings to deliver an environment in which Australian producers and manufacturers can be competitive with imports and in the export market
  • Incentives for R&D leading to product innovation and increased production
  • An efficient national transport system with better infrastructure and consistent rules and regulations
  • An available, skilled workforce
  • An environmentally sustainable food chain – with a focus on better packaging, efficient use of water, minimising food waste and energy use
  • A focus on improving export capacity
  • Continuous improvements in food safety
  • Support for production of clean, healthy and affordable food both for Australia and the world.

“Having a thriving, prosperous food industry will contribute many benefits to Australia’s economy including increased job opportunities, especially in rural and regional areas and a sustainable, nutritious and safe food supply into the future,” Ms Carnell said.