Food processing committee to investigate industry competitiveness

Posted by Nicole Eckersley on 25th March 2011

The passing of a Senate motion to establish a Select Committee on Australia’s food manufacturing sector has been welcomed by the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) yesterday.

The motion – moved by Tasmanian Senator Richard Colebeck, who consulted with industry about its content – was passed in the Senate 34 to 32 votes.  The committee is expected to investigate the competitiveness and future viability of Australia’s food processing sector as well assess constraints in the current regulatory environment, including food labelling.

AFGC Chief Executive Kate Carnell said the committee was vital to flesh out issues affecting industry’s competitiveness especially, considering the serious pressures facing Australia’s largest manufacturing sector – food and grocery.

“It’s important to get these issues on the table and debated by political leaders as the food and grocery manufacturing industry – which employs 288,000 people – is weathering a ‘perfect storm’,” Carnell said.

“Industry is under growing pressure from rising input costs such as energy, wages and water, higher transport costs, record high global commodity prices and supermarkets forcing down retail prices which is seriously impacting margins.

“The high Australian dollar is making imports cheaper and a proposed tax on carbon that will further undermine the competitiveness of Australian manufactured goods unless offshore competitors are subject to the same costs.

“If manufacturers can’t remain viable in Australia, there’s a danger they could shutdown or move offshore.  This puts serious pressure on many rural communities that rely on the thousands of jobs and flow-on benefits created by food and grocery manufacturers.”

Carnell said industry looked forward to working closely with the Select Committee members to address these key issues.