Australian tomatoes: Is anti-dumping tax too late?

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 6th November 2013

Several lines of processed tomato product from Italy were sold in Australia at “dumped prices”, according to a report from the Australian Government’s Anti-Dumping Commission. The findings mean a new tax will be applied to some tomatoes from Italy.

The report, released on Friday 1 November 2013, was in response to an application lodged by food processor SPC Ardmona, which stated that its business had been injured through price suppression, reduced profitability and lower sales volume, as a result of tomatoes being imported to Australia from Italy at margins that constitute “dumping”.

“It is necessary to require and take securities in order to prevent material injury occurring to the Australian industry while the investigation continues,” said Scott Wilson, National Manager Operations, Anti-Dumping Commission.

The final report is expected to be delivered to the Federal Minister for Industry, Ian MacFarlane, in early 2014.

Report welcomed by AusVeg

The report has been welcomed by vegetable and potato growers’ representative body AusVeg, which said that the report highlighted the need for greater pre-emptive action to prevent dumping before it happens.

“The dumping of cheaply produced produce, largely from European countries where a number of governmental support mechanisms exist, is rampant in both the processed tomato and potato industry, and it is causing significant damage to Australian processors and growers,” said Hugh Gurney, AusVeg Spokesperson.

AusVeg pointed to the announcement in October 2013 that food manufacturer McCain would close its potato processing plant at Penola in South Australia as an example of the difficulties faced by Australian food processors.

Australian Food News reported in May 2013 that SPC Ardmona Managing Director Peter Kelly had called for emergency safeguard action to be put in place because of concerns for the damaging affect of cheap imports on the local horticultural industry.

“The findings of this report vindicate Mr Kelly’s calls for Safeguard Actions, as the horticulture industry is under incredible pressure from dumped foreign foods, and if this is not remedied, our nation may find itself without local businesses to grow or process our own food,” Mr Gurney said. “This would be a travesty for a proud agricultural nation that ‘rode on a sheep’s back’ to become the country we are today,” he said.

“Dumping laws must be proactive to prevent damage and injury to the Australian industry, as the report today has found,” Mr Gurney said. “If action is not taken, large Australian employers like SPC Ardmona may go the way of Rosella, the iconic soup and sauce brand which closed its doors earlier this year,” Mr Gurney said.

Australian Made Campaign also welcomes findings

The Australian Made Campaign also welcomed the preliminary report findings, and said it recommended that additional tariffs be imposed on processed tomatoes that are found to have been dumped.

“We look forward to the final report validating these findings, but the fact remains there is damage being done to the local industry, and Australia’s growers, every day until these safeguards are put in place,” said Ian Harrison, Australian Made Chief Executive.

“There is a strong argument that the onus of proof should be shifted from the claimant to the importer to prove what is being sold has not been dumped, when a reasonable claim is accepted by the Anti-Dumping Commission,” Mr Harrison said.

Anti-Dumping Commission has found Italian tomatoes were dumped in Oz