Cyclone Debbie, which lashed the Queensland coast a week ago, has hit farmers hard in the area around Bowen – a crucial supplier of vegetables to Sydney, Melbourne and much of eastern Australia.
With the Queensland Farmers’ Federation estimating the damage at more than A$100 million and winter crop losses at 20%, the event looks set to affect the cost and availability of fresh food for millions of Australians. Growers are reportedly forecasting a price spike in May, when the damaged crops were scheduled to have arrived on shelves.
The incident also raises broader questions about the resilience of Australia’s fresh vegetable supply, much of which comes from a relatively small number of areas that are under pressure from climate and land use change.
The region also produces a significant amount of chillies, corn, cucumbers, eggplant, pumpkin, zucchini and squash, and is a key production area for mangoes and melons.
Coastal Queensland’s vegetable regions are among the highest-producing in the country, especially for perishable vegetables. The Whitsunday region around Bowen, and the area around Bundaberg further south are each responsible for around 13% of the national perishable vegetable supply.
As the chart below shows, vegetable production is highly concentrated in particular regions, typically on the fringes of large cities. These “peri-urban” regions, when added to the two major growing areas in coastal Queensland, account for about 75% of Australia’s perishable vegetables.
Australia’s climate variability means that most fresh produce can be grown domestically. The seasonable variability allows production to move from the south to the north in the winter, when the Bundaberg and Bowen areas produce most of the winter vegetables consumed in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne. The Bowen Gumlu Growers Association estimates that during the spring growing season in September—October, the region produces 90% of Australia’s fresh tomatoes and 95% of capsicums.
Besides damaging crops, Cyclone Debbie has also destroyed many growers’ packing and cool storage sheds. The cost of rebuilding this infrastructure may be too much for many farmers, and the waterlogged soils are also set to make planting the next crop more difficult.
The recovery of production in these areas is crucial for the supply. Growers who have lost their May crop will first have to wait until the paddocks dry out, then source new seedlings and plant them. It could be weeks until crops can be replanted, and storage and processing facilities replaced.
The Queensland government has announced natural disaster relief funding, including concessional loans of up to A$250,000 and essential working capital loans of up to A$100,000, to help farmers replant and rebuild.
Meanwhile, consumers of fresh vegetables in Sydney and Melbourne and many other places are likely to find themselves paying more until the shortfall can be replaced.
These pressures mean that Australia’s cities need to make their food systems more resilient, so that they can withstand food shocks more easily, and recover more quickly.
Key features of a resilient food system are likely to include:
geographic diversity in production, which spreads the risk of crop damage from extreme weather events across a number of different production areas;
more local food production, to reduce transportation and storage costs and avoid over-reliance on particular regions;
a diverse, healthy and innovative farming community;
greater consumer awareness of the importance of seasonal and locally produced food;
recycling of urban waste and water for use on farms, to reduce the use of fresh water and fertilisers;
the capacity to import food from overseas to meet shortfalls in domestic supply;
increased use of protected cropping systems such as greenhouses, which are better able to withstand adverse weather.
Two recent studies of food production around Sydney and Melbourne provide examples of a range of mechanisms and policies for increasing the resilience of the food systems of Australian cities.
Our food system has served us well until now, but land use pressures and climate change will make it harder in future. When a cyclone can knock out a major production region overnight, with knock-on effects for Australian consumers, this points to a lack of resilience in Australia’s fresh vegetable supply.
Marketing and distribution company Spirits Platform has launched its partnership with Edrington by announcing that The Macallan Double Cask 12 Years Old scotch whisky will join its portfolio in Australia.
Created from the balance of sherry-seasoned European and American oak casks, The Macallan Double Cask 12 Years Old is the latest premium single malt scotch to be released from the Scottish distillery.
Double Cask 12 Years Old brings a distinctive character to the fore, whilst presenting flavours familiar to both the Sherry Oak and Fine Oak ranges. The result is a new interpretation of the signature 12 Years Old Macallan: sweet, yet balanced and honeyed in character.
Officially taking the reins from Beam Suntory and Coca-Cola Amatil, Spirits Platform will distribute Edrington’s portfolio of whiskies in Australia, including The Macallan, Highland Park, The Famous Grouse and Cutty Sark.
The Double Cask 12 Years Old will be ranged alongside the Fine Oak 12 Years Old, offering Australia’s whisky connoisseurs access to two luxury Speyside single malts.
The new addition will be distributed with other Macallan expressions, including the 1824 Master Series’ The Macallan Rare Cask, a whisky crafted from handpicked Spanish sherry seasoned oak casks, with a high proportion of them being first fill.
Spirits Platform also plans to release the The Macallan Edition No. 2, a collaboration between master whisky maker Bob Dalgarno and globally celebrated restaurateurs the Roca brothers, founders of El Celler de Can Roca, twice voted best restaurant in the world.
Cricketer’s Arms has added Session Ale to its line-up, a 3.5 per cent ABV ale for consumers seeking a mid-strength craft beer that doesn’t compromise on taste.
Available on and off premise from April, the beer joins the the brewer’s other offerings: Keeper’s Lager, Spearhead Pale Ale and Scorcher Summer Ale. Session Ale is available in 6 x 4 375ml cans and is an evolution of the can design currently in the market.
“Session Ale proves that your beer doesn’t need to be high strength to taste good, with the 3.5% ABV tasty as ever,” said Hamish McArthur, Cricketers Arms Brewer.
“With an IBU of 26, this refreshing ale is hoppy but not especially bitter, balanced with full malt character from three malts and three hops, including our Cricketers Arms signature Amarillo hops.”
Cricketers Arms is brewed in Melbourne and was created 10 years ago by Paul Scott as a tribute to his father. As a boy, Scott would watch on as his father played cricket and shared beers with the opposing team post- match.
“Session Ale will help continue the growth of both the craft beer and mid- strength categories, by providing a consumer preferred full flavoured beer,” said Sarah Wilson, Brand Manager – Beer, Asahi Premium Beverages.
“For retailers, it introduces a greater range of craft mid-strength offers, which will increase penetration of the segment and at the same time trade shoppers up into a higher dollar per litre brand.”
Australia’s ready-meal sector will surpass $1 billion in the near future and a shift towards healthier eating is playing a major part, it has been claimed.
Paul Hitchcock, CEO of Patties Foods, has said the company is seeking new acquisitions with projections showing the huge growth in the market.
Having recently acquired Australian Wholefoods, he also believes the sector is now providing far more than “TV dinners” and told the AFR it will grow by more than 10 per cent annually.
“The category is still relatively new,” Hitchcock told the AFR. “It’s trending toward $1 billion but we’re not there yet.
The chilled ready meals category grew by 13 per cent in the past year for the retailer “as customers continue to look for convenient and affordable meal solutions”, according to a Woolworths spokesman.
“Busy lifestyles mean consumers are attracted to convenience meals by their relatively low cost, ease of use and variety,” a spokesman for Coles added.
Patties Foods was acquired by the provate equity firm Pacific Equity Partners for $231 million last year.
Rising energy costs and lack of reliable supply are threatening to push Australia’s red meat processing offshore.
The Australian Meat Industry Council (AMIC) is currently conducting a survey of its members to determine the scale of the problem and help create an energy policy for the industry.
According to AMIC’s Robert Barker, affordable and reliable energy supply is crucial for Australia’s meat processing sector. Gas in particular is important as a source of reliable energy to maintain the baseload, and for direct input in plant operation.
Early results of AMIC’s survey have showed that energy costs were up an average of 30 per cent in 2016 when compared with 2010.
Some of the larger meat processors reported additional energy costs of $20 million in the past 12 to 24 months.
“The red meat processing industry in Australia is the largest manufacturer in Australia, supporting over 130,000 jobs, most based in regional areas,” said Northern Cooperative Meat Company chief executive Simon Stahl.
“If Australia wants to stop this industry moving offshore, urgent attention to the cost of manufacturing is required at all levels of government,” he told Fairfax Media.
“Energy is at that critical stage, not only in terms of cost but also continuity of supply. Urgent action is required and serious consideration should be given to taking export exposed meat processing plants off the grid.”
According to the AFR, Patties Foods has swallowed up South Australia’s Australian Wholefoods.
In what is looking very much like a pattern, Pacific Equity Partners (PEP), which bought out Patties Food in 2016 and then followed that up by buying Leader Foods, has now devoured Australian Wholefoods, thereby allowing it to push into additional categories of the food services sector.
Australian Wholefoods employs about 130 people and its says it produces more than 100,000 chilled ready meals every week.
The company has introduced a number of new product lines like Clever Cooks, a fresh-food brand free from artificial colours or preservatives.
NiceLabel, one of the world’s leading developers of label and marking productivity software solutions has helped dairy company Arla Foods find a standardised label management solution for all of its industrial printers.
NiceLabel’s technology enabled this large food manufacturer to significantly reduce costs and increase label accuracy and productivity.
A critical part of Arla’s brand identity is being able to guarantee freshness and provide their customers with accurate product information, according to a company press release.
However the company needed a single solution with a standardised method of integration between each dairy’s label and direct marking printers and the Manufacturing Execution System (MES).
By using NiceLabel’s label management system, Arla said that it was able to automate printing by implementing a standardized integration with the MES at each dairy. Now, master data flows directly from the MES to the printers, eliminating manual data entry errors, mislabeling and the associated costs.
By introducing centralised label management, Arla have a more transparent label management process that helps them ensure accurate product and production data throughout the entire label printing process.
The company’s IT team now provides 24×7 support to each site, rapidly addressing issues before they result in production downtime while also allowing Arla to remotely monitor all activity and diagnose errors.
“Our customers have come to rely on us for accurate labeling and quality product information. NiceLabel helps us to meet their high expectations and we no longer have to worry about lost revenue associated with mislabeling”, said Torben Hattel, Senior Solution Architect at Arla Foods.
“We’ve definitely seen an increase in productivity thanks to the solution. Our labeling systems run more efficiently. We no longer spend time mitigating manual data entry errors and we’ve been able to streamline support as well.”
Beston Global Food (BFC) has announced that its Parmesan cheese is back in production at Murray Bridge after a five-year hiatus.
Beston this week began production of its first batches of the popular hard cheese destined for consumers across the country, and overseas.
BFC Chief Executive Officer, Sean Ebert, said while the Company’s specialist cheesemakers were currently busy crafting the first batches of Parmesan, they would also soon be moving into other varieties of hard cheese including Gruyere, Raclette and Tilset.
“Since opening our Beston Pure Food factory at Murray Bridge, we have had numerous inquires from our existing customers in Australia seeking locally made European-style hard cheeses. Hence, we have refurbished and returned the former hard cheese line, with a production capacity of 250 tonnes per annum, back into production and brought it to export standard. This has included the installation of a state-of-the-art maturation room and has created additional employment at the factory,” Ebert said.
“There is strong demand for these top quality cheeses in the Australian market.”
“Not only are we creating great cheese but in the process, we are creating jobs. Parmesan production alone required five additional staff while our wider expansion in hard cheese represents 15 new local jobs,” he said.
In June last year, the State Government announced it was providing $2.5 million to Beston for the development of its state-of-the-art cheese processing facility. South Australian- based Beston provides high-end premium foods in the dairy, seafood, meat and health & nutrition areas.
BFC chariman Dr Roger Sexton said that the recommissioning of the hard cheese facility at Murray Bridge was part of the organic growth strategy of BFC and represented another significant step in the further broadening of the revenue base of the company.
Western Australian meat processor and packer Harvey Beef has announced a new Rangelands beef brand, targeting consumers interested in animal welfare and hormone-free meat.
According to Harvey Beef, Rangelands beef is backed by accredited animal welfare standards, and promises to be hormone and antibiotic free, as well as grass-fed.
“The beef will be sourced from cattle grown in the vast, open ranges of the Kimberley and Pilbara, where cattle roam as nature intended and feast on the abundance of natural grasses,” the company said in a statement.
The product will come in value-added retail-ready form, with the range including beef mince, sausages and burger patties. The range will not include steak or whole-muscle cuts.
The company is targeting retail initially, but is also interested in supplying to the food service industry.
Pastoralists from the Pilbara and Kimberley who supply for the brand will need to be accredited through the Kimberley and Pilbara Cattlemen’s Association (KPCA). The KPCA has developed specific animal welfare criteria which the pastoralists must adhere to, including a third-party audit program.
“These criteria will give customers confidence in buying a product which not only tastes outstanding, but which has been sustainably raised,” said Harvey Beef in a statement.
“Our dedication to higher animal welfare standards matches Harvey Beef’s passion for the best quality beef, and together we can continue to ensure Western Australia is able to consume ethically-produced beef,” said Catherine Marriott, chief executive of the KPCA.
As the hype around 3D printing continues to grow, red meat has been identified as the next product that could benefit substantially from the technology.
According to experts, 3D printing could result in added value to current secondary cuts, trims and products by developing “meat ink”. For example, the technology could be used in the aged care sector to create high protein and nutritious meals that can be presented in a range of shapes and sizes, and made more appetising than the traditional pureed food.
One benefit of 3D printing meat is the ability to produce meat in a more sterile environment than traditional meat production, potentially avoiding contamination. It has also been cited as a potential way to boost food production for the world’s growing population.
Yet experts have cited challenges; it will be difficult to achieve a genuine meat taste and texture, and there may be some reluctance for consumers to accept 3D printed meat.
Overall however, there is increasing demand from markets who want personalised approaches to nutrients or textures, rather than the current whole muscle product.
The 3D Food Printing Conference Asia-Pacific will discuss these issues and more, to be held on May 2 in Melbourne.
The Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) has welcomed news that Carlton United Breweries (CUB) has ended its VB sponsorship with Cricket Australia (CA).
The demise of VB’s 20-year sponsorship with CA, estimated to be worth $65 million over the past five years is one of more than 20 alcohol-related sponsorships in Australian cricket.
The RACP is on record as saying that it was “unacceptable that young children are being bombarded with alcohol promotion both at the ground and at home watching on TV.”
This sentiment is shared by the majority of Australians, with over 60 per cent concerned about the exposure of children to alcohol promotions in sport, according to a number of recent surveys.
RACP President Dr Catherine Yelland said, “A generation of Australians have grown up and become accustomed to a sponsorship that has relentlessly pushed its product and left young Australians as collateral damage.”
“Sadly, we know alcohol marketing leads children and adolescents to start drinking earlier and makes young drinkers prone to binge drinking patterns.”
“Sometimes it starts them on a journey that has a lifelong impact. It’s not surprising that the peak age for the onset of alcohol use disorders is only 18 years old.”
A new agreement between China and Australia means the number of processors allowed to send chilled, or refrigerated and cryovaced beef cuts to China will more than triple.
Specifically, the number of meat processors permitted to export chilled beef to China will increase from 10 to 36, with another 15 expected to have pending approvals fast-tracked. Currently, Australia is the only country in the world with this market access.
According to David Foote, managing director of Australian Country Choice, the agreement is good news for the industry after Australia’s rights for chilled beef exports to China were restricted in August 2013.
In 2013, chilled beef accounted for 18 per cent of total beef exports to China, said Foote. Since the restrictions however, it has accounted for only 7 per cent.
Global mining and agricultural entrepreneur Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest also praised the new agreement.
“Now that we can export chilled beef to China, it means Australia can really compete as a food supplier, as opposed to just a live animal supplier,” he told Fairfax Media.
It is expected that the announcement will not lead to an immediate spike in imports due to record low numbers of Australian cattle, however it is expected to create opportunities for producers once cattle numbers recover over the next few years.
More than 100 Australian wineries were recently on show at one of the world’s biggest industry events in a bid to further boost surging exports.
The Wine Australia exhibit at ProWein 2017 which was held from March 19 to 21 in Germany featured 500 wines from 76 wineries across 39 varieties and 34 Australian regions, including the premier regions of South Australia.
The Dusseldorf event is considered one of the world’s most important international wine fairs and will include more than 6300 exhibitors from 60 nations.
Australia is the world’s fifth largest wine producing nation in 2016 and is experiencing a strong run of export success on international markets, particularly for premium wine in North America and China.
In the 12 months to December 2016, the value of Australian wine exports grew by 7 per cent to $2.22 billion and volume increased by 1 per cent to 750 million litres.
The average value of exports grew by 6 per cent to $2.96 per litre, the highest level since 2009 driven by a 10 per cent growth in bottled exports, mostly at higher price points.
South Australia is responsible for 50 per cent of Australia’s annual production including about 75 per cent of its premium wine.
Much of this premium wine comes from the South Australian regions of Barossa and McLaren Vale, and South Australian wineries attending ProWein include d’Arenberg, Elderton, Fox Creek, Langmeil.
According to a story from the Voice of America (VoA), some of China’s largest food suppliers have stopped selling Brazilian beef and poultry following a scandal over Brazil’s meat processing industry.
While Brazil is the world’s largest exporter of beef, fears over Brazilian meat safety have increased since police accused inspectors of taking bribes to permit the sale of rotten and infected meats.
The announcement from the Chinese food suppliers comes days after China temporarily suspended Brazilian all meat imports.
Hong Kong, Japan, Canada and Mexico have also announced they were stopping major imports of some Brazilian meat.
Brazilian President Michel Temer said the sale of rotten meat was an “economic embarrassment for the country.”
The Brazilian government has so far barred the exports of meats from 21 plants under investigation, while officials have tried to calm consumers by saying the recent investigation has found only “isolated problems with rotten or infected meat”.
However, the reaction by Chinese food suppliers suggests that the investigation could have a big effect on the world’s top meat exporter, said VoA.
Brazil’s trade associations for meat producers warned that the scandal could affect the economy considering meat exports make up 15 per cent of total exports.
West Australian researchers led by Dr. Kirsty Bayliss have discovered how to stop mould growing on fresh food.
Dr. Bayliss will be presenting her technology, titled ‘Breaking the Mould’, a chemical-free treatment for fresh produce that increases shelf-life, prevents mould and decay, and reduces food wastage, in the US.
“Our technology will directly address the global food security challenge by reducing food waste and making more food available for more people,” Dr. Bayliss said.
“The technology is based on the most abundant form of matter in the universe– plasma. Plasma kills the moulds that grow on fruit and vegetables, making fresh produce healthier for consumption and increasing shelf-life.”
Dr. Bayliss’s Murdoch University team has been working on preliminary trials for the past 18 months and are now preparing to start scaling up trials to work with commercial production facilities.
Dr. Bayliss said the LAUNCH Food Innovation Challenge was a “huge opportunity.”
“I will be presenting our research to an audience comprising investors, company directors and CEOs, philanthropists and other influential people from organisations such as Fonterra, Walmart, The Gates Foundation, as well as USAID, DFAT and even Google Food.”
“What is really exciting is the potential linkages and networks that I can develop; already NASA are interested in our work,” she said.
In an interview with ABC Online, she said “Food wastage contributes to a lot of the food insecurity as the US and Europe wastes around 100 kilograms of food per person every year.
“If we could reduce food wastage by a quarter, we could feed 870 million people.”
Dr. Bayliss said the technology also kills bacteria associated with food-borne illness, such as salmonella and listeria.
2 Beans is a new premium café-only soy milk from Vitasoy that has been crafted with organic whole soybeans.
The product is inspired by the fusion of the coffee bean and the soy bean to create a flavour designed for coffee.
To create the product, the company started with certified organic whole soy beans. They grind them to extract the goodness and taste then they turn them into milk. This process gives the milk a creamy taste and texture, as well as a rich, full froth.
World Latte Art Champion 2015, Caleb Cha, says: “2 Beans is specifically made to compliment coffee and is really barista friendly – they can handle it much easier as a soy milk, and so the resulting coffee should taste creamier and delicious.”
Baristas and café owners can taste 2 Beans and see it in action at Stand 92 at the Melbourne International Coffee Expo (MICE), 30 March – 1 April.
The product is currently available only in VIC and NSW.
H2coco has announced the latest addition to its family: H2melon Pure Watermelon Water, another first-to-market for H2coco in Australia and New Zealand.
Unlike the recent coffee (Cocoespresso) and chocolate-flavoured (CocoChoc) additions to the H2coco range, H2melon is a completely new brand. H2melon products are made from 100 per cent pure watermelon water with no added sugar, no artificial flavours and no preservatives.
H2coco Founder & CEO David Freeman was inspired by the cold-pressed watermelon he tried in the USA. However, the knowledge gained through H2coco resulted in the decision to adopt a process which produces a long shelf-life product without the need for additives or preservatives.
The new product another exciting innovation for the H2coco team and is launching at the right time, with market insights predicting watermelon water and watermelon seeds will be the biggest new superfood trends of 2017.
The watermelon water will launch into Woolworths Supermarket and Caltex Starmart in late March 2017. It will then be on shelves in other leading supermarkets, petrol stations and convenience stores from April.
Coca-Cola Amatil’s Managing Director Australian Beverages, Barry O’Connell will step down after four years with the company.
The company said in a statement that Peter McLoughlin will take over from O’Connell (pictured) pending the completion of a full internal and external search.
O’Connell, who took charge of the beverage supplier’s Australian operations in July 2014 after running the group’s New Zealand business, will return to Europe.
“Over the last three years Barry has built a strong foundation for our Australian Beverages business through his leadership of our transformation program and focus on rebalancing our portfolio to deliver a sustainable business for tomorrow,” said Amatil Group Managing Director Alison Watkins.
The company said that McLoughlin will continue to implement the initiatives currently underway across the Australian market.