Concerns over skyrocketing numbers for imports of processed vegetables and fruit

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 1st August 2012

Australian vegetable growers have expressed dismay at new statistics released this week showing processed vegetable imports have hugely expanded in the past two years.

“These figures demonstrate an alarming trend that is getting worse, year on year. The volume of processed vegetable imports in this country has reached worrying heights, and measures must be taken immediately to ensure that Australian vegetable producers are provided with a proper level playing field,” said AUSVEG Chief Executive Officer, Mr Richard Mulcahy.

AUSVEG is the National Peak Industry Body representing around 9,000 of Australia’s vegetable and potato growers.

The ‘Composition of Trade Australia 2011’ statistics, compiled by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), show that imports of processed fruit and vegetable products between 2009/10 to 2011/12 rose by as much as $119 million, which DFAT has partly attributed to the high Australian dollar.

“The Australian vegetable industry is now more than ever facing fierce competition from overseas markets and the pressure is mounting on growers to reduce their costs and operate on even slimmer profit margins,” said Mr Mulcahy.

“If Australia continues to import vegetable products in the way that these results indicate, then the viability of Australian growers will be seriously jeopardised” he said.

“While growers and processors here are committed to producing the high quality products that Australian households have come to expect, if the level of imported products that we are currently seeing increases much further then it will be a grim future for these industries indeed,” said Mr Mulcahy.

Mr Mulcahy said it was vital that strong policies were developed to help growers combat escalating input costs and be better equipped to compete with overseas competition in the market.

“I strongly encourage policymakers in Canberra to examine the latest DFAT figures and to consider measures that will help reverse this trend,” said Mr Mulcahy.

Australia’s food imports were shown to have largely been sourced from New Zealand, with producers in the United States, Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia also contributing to the rise in Australia’s imported food products.