AUSVEG supports Greens’ country of origin reforms

The Greens' proposed overhaul of country of origin labelling laws has received the backing of growers organisation, AUSVEG.

Earlier this week the Greens introduced a bill into the Senate seeking to overhaul Australia's country of origin labelling system, which Greens senator Christine Milne described as "too confusing."

The Bill seeks to simplify labelling into three claims: Product of or Grown in Australia; Manufactured in Australia; and Packaged in Australia.

AUSVEG, which represents Australia’s 9,000 vegetable and potato growers, has thrown its weight behind the Greens, with spokesperson Hugh Gurney saying any move which aims to make it easier for consumers to support homegrown produce is welcome.

"Senator Milne highlighted that consumers want to support Australian farmers. Recent research conducted has shown that 80 percent of consumers want to purchase Australian produce to support farmers and for our nation to have a viable food industry.

"Current labelling claims, including the downright baffling 'Made in New Zealand from Local and Imported ingredients', provide consumers with no certainty whatsoever that the food they choose has been produced to the incredibly high standards of quality and safety as those seen in Australia," said Gurney.

At the moment, a product from China can travel to New Zealand, be processed and sent onto Australia under the claim 'Made in New Zealand from Local and Imported Ingredients'.

The Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) opposes the Bill, however, claiming it has the potential to mislead consumers and drive jobs offshore because it focuses purely on food ingredients and doesn't provide clear information on where the value-adding process takes place on processed foods.

AFGC CEO Gary Dawson said "The Greens' Country of Origin Labelling proposal fails its own test in protecting Australian jobs by effectively ignoring the economic value-add of the nearly 300,000 Australians employed directly in the food and grocery processing sector, including 8,000 in Tasmania."

And worse, it expressly bars companies from using 'Made in Australia' on their labelling to indicate that the jobs in the manufacture of the product are here in Australia. This will not only mislead Australian consumers, but also remove any export advantage Australian food manufacturing companies have in promoting Australian premium brands particularly in Asian markets," he said.

Australian Made also rejects the Greens' Bill, with chief executive Ian Harrison arguing the current labelling regime needs to be changed, but these proposed reforms fall short of what Australia needs.

"The proposed Bill is a step in the right direction, but misses the mark on some very important issues, including substantial transformation, which is all about where products are made," he said.


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