In an unprecedented move, the newly formed Food Industry Alliance (FIA) will work with government to address key issues to ensure reliable and affordable access to food for all Australians, during this time of supply chain disruption.
Industry associations have expressed interest in supporting this alliance. Comprised of food industry associations across the supply chain, the FIA includes Independent Food Distributors Australia (IFDA), The National Farmers Federation (NFF), Australian Meat Industry Council, (AMIC), Master Grocers Australia (MGA) and the Australian Association of Convenience Stores (AACS).
The FIA represents or supplies food to over 156,000 businesses with a combined revenue of $220 billion and employing almost one million people.
“We need our food supply chains to be firing on all cylinders if we are to ensure food remains on the shelves and available in many of the nation’s food venues without disruption,” IFDA CEO Richard Forbes said.
“Food security is key in these uncertain times, so we need to work together, across all industry sectors, and with government, to overcome the many significant domestic and global challenges the food supply chain faces.”
The FIA’s aim is to also highlight the national contribution that family and private-owned independent food businesses make to the Australian economy.
“To fix the current issues within the supply chain, all those operating within it need to be recognised and consulted, not just a select few. This includes the massive contribution of independent, family-based food businesses in Australia, who provide billions of tonnes of food annually into the domestic market alone,” MGA CEO Jos De Bruin said.
“This includes local grocers and independent retail butchers, independent supermarkets, convenience stores, through to those that supply cafes, restaurants, hotels, and clubs in the $57 billion food service consumer market. The FIA also represents those that provide food to institutional facilities such as hospitals, nursing homes, schools, childcare centres, military bases, and prisons.”
Eight billion meals are served throughout food service to almost 100,000 commercial and institutional venues. Ten out of 21 meals a week are now out of home. Many businesses that supply and distribute food to these venues are also family or privately owned.
“Customers rely on a wide supply chain of providers to get their groceries and meals, which includes independents, major supermarkets as well as smaller retailers and hospitality providers,” National Farmers Federation acting CEO Ash Salardini said.
“Australian farmers need all these pathways to be working effectively so we can get our produce to consumers affordably and reliably.”
According to AACS CEO, Theo Foukkare, the convenience and service station sector food services category has grown to $1 billion in annual sales, which is a 50 per cent increase in three years.
“This is a clear indication that the significance of supply chain efficiency has rapidly become more critical for community outlets than ever before,” he said.
AMIC CEO, Patrick Hutchinson, said the organisation has seen the impact of labour shortages on the food supply chain, through periods of empty fresh food shelves across Australia.
“Thankfully, many family and privately-owned retail business, while also impacted, were able to fill that supply gap and help Australia avoid a serious national crisis with food availability,” he said.
“These included local butcher and greengrocer stores who have direct supplier relationships, along with convenience stores, petrol stations, cafes and restaurants,” he said.
The FIA looks forward to working constructively with the new federal government on:
- The labour shortage crisis, which has meant fruit and vegetables have remained unpicked, meat processing remains under capacity, grocery shelves are slow to be restocked, and restaurants and cafes are forced to operate sub-optimal business hours;
- Solutions to the rising costs within the supply chain, which are significantly impacting food businesses. These include fuel and energy;
- Urgent competition reform policy to protect small to medium enterprises (SME) from unfair and anti-competitive commercial practices; and
- Addressing domestic supply chain inefficiencies to ensure Australia is less vulnerable to international forces and that there is better contingency planning during natural disasters and other events, to ensure ‘all’ those in the food supply chain are considered when there is reduced availability of food supplies.
The group says if these issues are not addressed as a matter of priority, then there is increased potential to see food price inflation and more disruptions in terms of availability.