Packaging leader calls for Australian government to adopt conducive approach to the food industry

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 16th November 2011

One of Australia’s key industrialists, Anthony Pratt, who is chairman of the leading Australian packaging business Visy Industries, has called upon the Australian government to work with Australia’s food industry to boost production.

Speaking at a conference on food security yesterday in Shepparton, Victoria, Mr Pratt offered five ways he believes Australia can quadruple its food production:

  1. Accelerated depreciation should be introduced to encourage new manufacturing investments in food.
  2. Mr Pratt said that research money going to government agencies should be going instead to manufacturers of branded products like SPC and others who will bring investments forward. He said, “With the high Australian dollar, imports are increasing. We need innovation funds to help the SPCs of this world do different things that imports can’t, like innovating to make more fresh food [with] increased shelf life. High-pressure processing is expensive so we need funding to help capital projects get up that, without this help, won’t get up. SPC takes 20,000 tonnes of pears, so if it can build technology they can work with growers to have fresh sliced pear so we use up the pear over-capacity.”
  3. Reforming anti-dumping laws in Australia ought to be a priority. He said that by the time Australian manufacturers can gather enough evidence to prove their case, the damage has been done and another Australian food product exits the domestic market. He said Australia urgently needed a more level playing field against unfair below-cost dumping of overseas product into Australia.
  4. He called for the suspension of payroll tax that is imposed currently on food manufacturers.
  5. He called for the government’s ‘competition policy’ to be modified to allow greater industry consolidation to enhance profitability and encourage Australian companies to invest in Australia.

Mr Pratt said that Visy has invested more than A$2 billion in domestic manufacturing in Australia over the past 10 years and that 70 per cent of its customers are in the food and beverage sector.

“The difficult truth is that while Australia’s bulk food production has increased, its food processing and manufacturing sector has been in a slow decline over the past two decades,” Mr Pratt said.

Mr Pratt commented, “We have rich natural resources – productive land, smart people and a relatively stable government. Our proximity to Asia is also a huge natural asset.

“This puts us in the zone of the fastest economic growth the modern world has seen. In short, we have many of the tools to help meet the global food security challenge and to prosper our local industries and regional communities while we do so. We have what it takes to feed 200 million people and that should be our goal,” Mr Pratt added.