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TAS Country : January 17th 2013
FAR HORIZON: Tasmanian growers must decide soon if they are to continue to produce vegetables and potatoes for processing into the foreseeable future or succumb to the import threat. Acaseofdiginordieout Veg industry faces burial by imports OVER the FENCE John Rich AUSVEG released some alarming data just before Christmas that showed the value of imported vegetables in Aust- ralia had increased by $122 million in the past year. The data, prepared by the Australian Bureau of Agriculture and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) is serious stuff. The value of imports for 2010-11 was $786 million and for 2011-12 it had risen to $908 million --- an increase of 16 per cent. But the news appears to have largely gone unnoticed by growers. Maybe the timing of the announcement was unfor- tunate and was lost in the Christmas activities and holiday mood. From my perspective, looking at the industry from over the fence, I would have expected that Tasmanian veg- etable growers would want to become more proactive on the issue. I have not seen anything that would indicate industry action about the threat from increasing levels of imports over the past several years. Tasmania has the most to lose from increasing imports, considering the majority of the vegetable imports are frozen processed and we are the principal producer of vegetables for processing in this country. As far as I am aware, the market for processed vegetables is fairly static. This means every tonne of imported product takes away from what is produced in Australia. As an industry, we are losing ground at a significant rate and we don't appear to be trying to do anything about it. The latest edition of AusVeg's maga- zine Potatoes Australia features an interview with Thirlstane's Matt Ryan. Matt is quoted as saying, ''Competing with products that are either subsi- dised or produced under conditions that Australian consumers wouldn't accept is a real battle for the industry. ''This will particularly be the case if overseas product flooded the Aust- ralian market, undermining the legit- imate position of our own industries. ''It is going to be a sad situation in Australia if our food processing sector does completely disappear and we can't even feed ourselves. We need to form some policy around what is appropri- ate to make sure that industries survive through a period where the Australian dollar is higher.'' I agree with Matt's sentiments. Our processing industry is in trou- ble, not only because of the high dollar value but also through increasing farm input costs and a costly regulation system. We are high-cost producers; our wage rates are high compared with countries exporting product to Aust- ralia. Mat Ryan also points out that action needs to be taken by grower organis- ations or groups and that this requires the support of everybody in the indus- try, not just a few. Again, I agree with him, but what appears to be missing here is robust leadership to take this issue on and establish what it is that is required to be done to ensure the Tasmanian processed vegetable industry has a solid future. I read that Matt Ryan met with Federal Minister for Agriculture Joe Ludwig to bring attention to the issues facing growers and the challenges to be tackled. What I would like to see is the outcome of that representation. Did Joe Ludwig give any support to the issues raised? Is the Federal Government going to do anything to recognise the problems being faced by vegetable growers in Tasmania from increasing imports? If so, what is going to be done? I recall Sid Sidebottom, Labor Mem- ber for Braddon and Parliamentary Secretary for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, stating at the AusVeg awards dinner in Hobart in May last year that Australia does not have a food security issue because we export $27.1 billion of food and import food with a value of $10.6 billion. According to Mr Sidebottom, we are therefore OK because we have a trade surplus of $16.5 billion. That is far too simplistic, there is much more to this than just some numbers on a sheet of paper. The issue of imports and the threats to industry was positively raised in 2005 when Richard Bovill led the tractor rally from Devonport to Can- berra. Despite the obvious success of that rally and raising the awareness, it would seem that since that time very little has been achieved in respect of the plight of farmers trying to survive against increasing imports. It has to be emphasised that the farmers most affected by imports are Tasmanians growing vegetables and potatoes for processing. With this in mind, it can be assumed that farmers in other parts of Australia, primarily growing for the fresh market, will have an interest in the import issue --- but only on the fringe, as the products they produce will really not be adversely affected by imports. The level of im- ports of fresh produce is not high. The first and most crucial decision to be made by Tasmanian growers is ''do we want to continue to grow vegetables and potatoes for processing, into the foreseeable future?'' If the answer is yes by the majority of growers, then the next question is ''what is required to be done to keep this industry in Tasmania?'' Growers need their leadership to come out strongly and take charge of this most crucial issue. Growers need to get behind their leadership and explore everything possible to secure their future. This is not an easy matter, in fact it is very complex but, from over the fence, I believe that unless positive action is taken and immediately then the Tasmanian processing industry will not survive for much longer. 6 Tasmanian Country Friday, January 18, 2013 Opinion Goats on the record TASMANIA now has an accreditation scheme that enables goat producers to re- cord their animals on a register that indi- cates that they do not have Caprine Retrovi- rus. The register of CRV-certified herds is kept by the Depart- ment of Primary In- dustries, Parks, Water and Environ- ment. Goats can be sus- ceptible to the serious Caprine Retrovirus disease, formerly known as caprine ar- thritis. A DPIPWE spokes- man said goats should only be sourced from producers with CRV- free accreditation.
January 10th 2013
January 24th 2013