Aussies trump Sicilians in blood orange battle

Consumers are turning their back on Sicilian blood oranges, instead preferring the Australian-grown variety, says the MD of Redbelly Citrus.

Vito Mancini said buyers who had always bought Sicilian blood oranges are now buying Aussie grown produce, arguing the quality is better, weeklytimesnow.com.au reports.

Mancini said many Sicilian growers have stopped producing the Arold variety, which "is essentially the Moro variety" and has the most vibrant colour and intense flavour.

But it is this colour and flavour which domestic and international buyers are looking for, and so are looking Down Under to have their orders filled.

"We're bloody proud to be able to provide it and be the first company to put Aussie blood oranges in the international spotlight," he said.

 

SPC becomes first brand to launch Aussie baked beans

Canned food brand, SPC, has launched a 100 percent Australian grown baked beans product.

The first brand to do so, SPC has partnered with farmers and the local industry to ensure enough navy beans are grown to guarantee supply.

SPC is sourcing its beans from the Queensland town of Kingaroy, as well as Atherton in far-North Queensland and the Riverina district in NSW. The tomates in the red baked beans sauce are from Goulburn Valley in Victoria.

"Eating products containing overseas sourced beans means you’re not supporting our Aussie farmers struggling to compete with cheap foreign imports.  There has never been a more important time than now to support Australian grown and Australian made, just as SPC is doing with its 100 percent Aussie Grown Baked Beans," an SPC statement reads.

Earlier this month SPC Ardmona announced investigations had been initiated into both its peaches and tomatoes anti-dumping claims, which argue that cheap foreign imports threaten the livelihood of local brands.

SPC also recently informed 170 of its Goulburn Valley growers that it no longer required their produce, blaming the high exchange rate and a decline in export markets.

 

Farmer buys into Windsor Farm Foods to bring processing in-house

A NSW beetroot farmer has bought most of the processing lines from the collapsed Windsor Farm Foods cannery in an effort to establish his own vegetable processing facility.

Ed Fagan said both Woolworths and buys urged him to make the investment.

"The first thing is that we have had Woolworths knocking on our door telling us to do it," he said, according to the ABC.

"That gives you confidence."

The Windsor Farm Foods cannery in Cowra went into voluntary administration earlier this year, sacking more than 70 workers and leaving many local growers shortchanged including Fagan, who was left with $200,000 worth of beetroot uncontracted.

Fagan says investing in his own processing facility will give him more control of the supply chain.

"For 70 years we've been growing things that have ended up going to someone else who's preserved it or chopped it up or something else and on-sold.

"We believe there is a future in value-adding and we are looking at taking that value-added step," he said.

Another farmer determined to have more control over how his produce is handled and sold is Tony Galati, one of Western Australia's biggest fruit and vegetables growers.

Galati recently launched his own big-box liquor store, the Liquor Shed, aiming to take on the supermarket duopoly and promote WA wine makers. 

 

Berri’s Mexican juice still under pressure

Berri Truly, an orange juice imported from Mexico under the Berri brand has come under further pressure from independent senator Nick Xenophon, and state member for Chaffey, Tim Whetstone, after they called for removal of the product from supermarket shelves.

The juice is currently being sold in supermarkets for around $1, however Whetstone has called upon parent company Lion to remove the product from supermarket shelves immediately, The Advertiser reports.

The product, Berri Truly Juice came under fire for allegedly misleading customers regarding the country of origin. Senator Xenophon said the juice featured a ‘product of Mexico’ claim on the back of the label in small print while the Berri logo proudly claimed “since 1943.”

Lion announced that the company decided to delete the product as it was not meeting set performance benchmarks.

Whetstone says that local fruit growers are suffering at the expense of imported products.

“Riverland growers are receiving less than two cents per kilogram for juicing fruit and it is simply not good enough that an imported juice brand is taking up shelf space that could otherwise be for SA made brands,” he said.

“Our orange growers are ripping up orchards because they cannot find markets for their produce but we are seeing a label branded synonymously with SA and the Riverland sourcing imported fruit.”

 

Goulburn Valley will not receive federal funding for tree removal

The Federal Government has refused to fund the removal of fruit trees from Victoria’s troubled Goulburn Valley region.

The decision to pull some 750,000 unwanted trees from the region has come after SPC Ardmona announced that they will no longer be accepting fruit from 170 fruit growers from 1 May this year, resulting in a 10 percent decrease of pear and peach trees in the state.

Growers fear that failure to destroy the trees will result in the attraction of fruit flies, pests and associated diseases to the area – however growers require government assistance to do so.

Agriculture minister Joel Fitzgibbon recently visited the devastated region.

"Money, doesn't grow on trees, excuse the pun," Fitzgibbon told ABC Rural.

"We're very careful to allocate money where we have direct responsibility.”

Fitzgibbon believes that the Victorian Government needs to support local growers.

"This is clearly a responsibility for the Victorian Government,” he said.

"But we have got to be careful not to let the Victorian Government shirk its responsibilities.

"It is their job first and foremost, but I am happy to help where I can."

 

Aussie orchardists warn imported cider concentrate could be dangerous

The Australian cider industry has expressed concern over potential health risks associated with the influx of imported concentrate used by major cider brands.

Local fruit growers are subject to rigorous health and safety regulations which ensure that their products are safe for consumption, while imported fruit is subject to standards that are not nearly as stringent.

WA apple grower, Mario Carsotti spoke to ABC Rural of his concerns.

“The fruit coming in from China, this concentrate, that could be sprayed with anything at all. Human waste put onto it, you really don’t know what’s ending up in that final product. It’s sort of like playing Russian roulette really,” said Carsotti.

Carsotti believes that the Government needs to step in and provide protection to both consumers and local growers. Carsotti says that the cider and juice market provides a vital avenue for Aussie growers to recoup production costs as imperfect fruit is not accepted by major supermarkets.

“We just can’t understand why the Government doesn’t put some sort of protection there, because [the countries from which Australia imports], they are just not doing what we are doing. It’s not a level playing field,” said Mr Carsotti.

“…Imported product is just so cheap for [major producers] to grab, that they don’t worry about local production.”

“The major [supermarket] chains have raised their bar with regards to what they will accept on quality with first-grade fruit. That puts more fruit into the juice-grade line of fruit. There’s too much for the factories to handle with the amount of imported juice coming into the country.”

Boutique cider brewer Mark Hollet, who has been in the industry for over 10 years, believes that cheap imports compromise on both safety and quality.

“I would be disappointed to see ciders being produced with concentrate, because it’s a little like short-cutting the process [and] trying to produce something as cheap as possible,” said Mr Hollett.

“If the apples are coming from overseas originally, then we don’t really know what the processes of the orchard have been in regards to spraying and other things, so you just have to hope that the fruit is of a high-quality when they juice it.”

 

Mandarins trump oranges due to laziness

Aussie consumers are increasingly moving away from consuming oranges in favour of mandarins due to the ease of consumption.

The Western Australian citrus industry has observed a decline in orange sales while simultaneously, mandarins have enjoyed a steady rise in demand, ABC Rural reports.

WA grower, Richard Eckersley said that the trend in switching to the more convenient form of citrus has seen mandarins out-perform oranges for the first time.

“We’ve found that the demand for oranges is dropping. I think, off the top of my head, last year Coles and [Woolworths] outsold oranges with mandarins for the first time on record. I think the consumer trend is definitely shifting from oranges to mandarins, and definitely easy-peel and low-seed to seedless [varieties],” says Eckersley.

“We have tried some mandarin varieties that are difficult to peel, or difficult to eat or have high seed, and the demand for them is definitely not there."

 

Vegetable growers call for resignation of AusVeg chairman

Vegetable growers across the country are calling for the resignation of AusVeg chairman, John Brent amid the collapse Queensland vegetable processor, Bunny Bites.

Bunny Bites which Brent co-owns, went into administration last month owing up to $10m to creditors the Weekly Times Now reports.

Andrew Moon, AusVeg member and chairman of Onions Australia said that growers did not feel that AugVeg could adequately represent the interests of farmers while Brent remained on the board.

"A large percentage of onion growers are also vegetable growers and have made complaints directly to Onions Australia,'' said Moon.

"It's all very smelly and I think he has lost the confidence of his grower base and should step down.

"How does a person hold down a position like that after something like this happens?

"We need strong leaders in the horticulture industry, not just people who want a job, and I think John Brent has shown his true colours.''

The Courier Mail also reports that the appointed administrators, Robson Cotter Insolvency Group advised creditors that there could possibly be legal avenues to claim against the company’s directors as the business may be been trading while insolvent.

 

New Aussie research looks into avocado bruising [video]

A Queensland research project is looking into why avocados bruise so easily and how they can be prevented, with one in three avocados considered a disappointment by consumers.

The research is a joint project between the University of Queensland's (UQ) School of Agriculture and Food Sciences and the Queensland government's Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.

Consumers have said they'd buy more avocados if they had confidence they wouldn't bruise so easily, so the research hopes to reduce consumer disappointment and benefit the industry with higher sales.

UQ PhD student, Muhammad Sohail Mazhar, has followed avocados through the supply chain from ripener, distribution centre, to retailer. He discovered that most flesh bruising occurs at the retail store.

Mazah's doctorate involves looking at shoppers' contribution to bruising in retail stores and how it can be minimised.

UQ's professor Daryl Joyce believes 'decision-aid tools' and education initiatives to help shoppers choose fruit in the store may be the solution.

"Precise firmness-testing machines for avocados already exist in laboratories," he said.

"If we could adapt such devices for use in supermarkets, shoppers could learn how many days away the piece of fruit is from being ready to eat, without them having to squeeze it.

"A cost-effective firmness-testing device – combined with educating store staff, shoppers and consumers – could well be the answer to giving us many more bruise-free avocados."

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Affordable fresh food for every Australian child – regardless of their postcode


 

An election period is a time when we look to our leaders for bold, visionary action and innovative policy. A time to re-imagine our society and create new solutions to our most-pressing challenges.

A moment every three years, when we can shift the trajectory of this nation and voice our opinions. Exercise democracy, but also a time to reflect. Take stock of our national landscape and ensure that we as a nation are heading in a direction we can all be proud of.

A new promise

Now I am an academic and not a politician – and for the purposes of this article, my political bias is not totally relevant. But I want to make a call – draw a line in the sand and urge both sides of politics to consider adopting a new and bold promise for this coming election.

That by the end of the coming term, every child in our country will have equal access to affordable fresh fruits and vegetables.

That no matter where that child lives – the centre of Sydney or the red centre – fresh produce will cost the same.

And this cost will be affordable.

Fresh food is health

A recent study suggested that Indigenous children who have access to fresh fruit and vegetables, are healthier and require less antibiotic therapy than counterparts with less fresh food access. This was a small study, but it implied something we all can imagine – that children do better, and achieve greater health if they can access affordable fresh produce.

And yet, another study looking at the cost of a standard basket of supermarket goods across a spectrum of remoteness in Australia – showed a cost differential between 24 percent and 56 percent. In other words, fresh food is up to 56 percent more expensive in remote regions.

And this is not just an issue for Indigenous children, this is an issue for remote and rural children also, and this is an issue for urban children who live in areas void of fresh produce stores – known as food deserts.

Remote, rural and economically vulnerable families want to buy fresh foods, but increasingly simply cannot afford to.

A time for vision

All this, in the world’s 9th richest nation, by GDP per capita. A nation that was built on the back of agriculture and rural enterprise. A nation that prides itself on striving for equity and on the notion of a universal “fair go”.

Money doesn’t solve everything – but money can solve this. We can solve this and our government can solve this.

We are a wealthy nation and it is shameful that families and children could go without, or face greater economic barriers to accessing fresh foods, simply because they live further from big cities. We should not accept such disparities in the cost of food for those living in rural regions and those living in less-advantaged urban settings.

Every child should have the same opportunities for achieving health.

Every child – rural, remote, indigenous, non-indigenous or urban – should and can have access to affordable fresh produce.

If we decide to make this a priority.

Affordable fresh food for every Australian

In this election year, let’s urge our leaders to close the divide in the cost of accessing a healthy diet. Make it just as easy for all Australians and all Australian children to achieve a healthier life, regardless of their address.

It’s time to have vision, to have foresight and to make bold, meaningful and tangible changes that can benefit all. So let’s call on our politicians to make this one of their priorities. To consider a policy of affordable fresh food for every child – whatever their postcode.

Connect with Sandro on Twitter via @SandroDemaio.

This article is dedicated to the inspiring and visionary work of Prof Kerin O'Dea.

Alessandro R Demaio does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

The Conversation

This article was originally published at The Conversation. Read the original article.

Images:  Flickr / Monica Arellano-Ongpin, Flickr / epSos.de and Flickr / JanahPhotography

 

Anti-dumping investigation too little, too late: Katter

The recently announced anti-dumping investigations don't go far enough in supporting Australia's fruit and vegetable producers, KAP leader Bob Katter says.

SPC Ardmona confirmed yesterday that investigations have been initiated into both its peaches and tomatoes anti-dumping claims – the first cases to be approved by the new Anti-Dumping Commission.

But according to Katter, Aussie producers, struggling to compete with cheap foreign imports, need more action from the government.

"Everybody knows what’s happening – it’s staring at them in the face when they open the paper each morning – free market policies have decimated our food producers and manufacturers and it’s beyond high time our governments started protecting Aussie industries and jobs," he said.

Katter said the anti-dumping probe was too little too late for our producers, many of whom are being forced to let their fruit rot as they're unable to compete with cheaper imported goods.

Around 750,000 fruit trees are expected to be destroyed by spring after SPC Ardmona announced it no longer required the produce of 170 Goulburn Valley growers.

"SPC Ardmona, one of Australia’s biggest food processors and critical to the Goulbourn Valley food producing region, pleaded with the government several months ago for emergency safeguards – but in the final week of Parliament, the government announced a six-month inquiry just to consider whether temporary tariffs are even justified," Katter said.

The minister for home affairs and minister for justice, Jason Clare, officially launched the new Australian Anti-Dumping Commission in Melbourne yesterday, naming Dale Seymour as the new Anti-Dumping Commissioner.

"Today we have a new Commission, a new Commissioner and $24.4 million in new resources to conduct anti-dumping investigations. This is good news for Australian manufacturers and workers," Clare said.

The Commission will be looking at the effect of imported produce on Australian suppliers, starting with peaches imported from South Africa and tomatoes from Italy.
 

SPC Ardmona first in line for anti-dumping investigation

One of Australia's largest food processors, SPC Ardmona, has had its anti-dumping case approved for formal investigation by the new Australian Anti-Dumping Commission.

SPC Ardmona has confirmed investigations have been initiated into both its peaches and tomatoes anti-dumping claims – the first cases to be approved by the Commission.

The WTO Anti-Dumping Agreement allows countries to take action against imports from countries allegedly exporting at 'dumped' prices.

"Dumping occurs when an overseas supplier exports a good to Australia at a price below its ‘normal value’ in the supplier’s home market. If dumping causes, or threatens to cause, ‘material injury’ to local producers of ‘like goods’, then remedial action can be taken against the imported goods concerned," shadow minister for agriculture, John Cobb, explained earlier this year.

Peter Kelly, managing director, SPC Ardmona, said the announcement today validates the hard work the company has undertaken in recent months to "revitalise" itself, and says New Zealand has had similar safeguards in place for more than a decade.

"We are determined to fight for our business in the Goulburn Valley and the future of Australian food processing. We believe we have a very clear case for Anti-Dumping measures and it’s encouraging that the government has deemed there to be enough evidence to warrant a formal investigation," he said.

In April SPC told 170 of its Goulburn Valley fruit growers that it would no longer accept their produce, blaming the high exchange rate and a decline in export markets.

The minister for home affairs and minister for justice Jason Clare officially launched the new Australian Anti-Dumping Commission in Melbourne today, naming Dale Seymour as the new Anti-Dumping Commissioner.

"Today we have a new Commission, a new Commissioner and $24.4 million in new resources to conduct anti-dumping investigations. This is good news for Australian manufacturers and workers," Clare said.

The Commission also confirmed it had initiated investigations into peaches imported from South Africa and tomatoes imported from Italy.

 

Filipino deal serves as sweet news for Aussie fruit exporters

Australian fruit exporters will now have easier access to the Philippines under a new agreement between the Aussie and Filipino governments’ agricultural departments.

The deal was signed in Canberra at the 2nd Australia Philippines Agriculture Forum in Canberra and will benefit exporters of citrus, table grapes, apples, pears, kiwifruit and summer fruit in particular, ABC Rural reports.

Joel Fitzgibbon, Australia’s agricultural minister said that the agreement will provide greater flexibility for Australian exporters, including the ability to cold-treat produce in order to combat pests during transit.

“This agreement will make it easier for Filipino consumer to access great Australian fruit,” said Fitzgibbon.

“This is an example of the government’s plan to tackle trade barriers and grow agricultural exports, as outlined in the National Food Plan.”

Increased opportunities for fruit export comes as welcome news to struggling fruit growers across the country. Victoria’s distressed Goulburn Valley region has been in dismay since SPC Ardmona announced in April that they will no longer be taking fruit from 170 growers in the region.
 

Farmer takes on duopoly with new bottle shop concept

Tony Galati, one of Western Australia's biggest fruit and vegetables growers, is taking on Coles and Woolworths by launching his own big-box liquor store.

The 1,500sqm Liquor Shed, opening this weekend next to Galati's Spud Shed in Jandakot, could be the first in a chain of liquor stores aimed at taking on the supermarket duopoly and promoting WA wine makers. Other sites are planned for Wanneroo, Baldivis, Kelmscott and Mandurah.

It's not going to be easy," Galati told thewest.com.au. "The majors have got a lot of money and power behind them. They'll be investing a lot of money to undercut us. This is where we need the support of consumers."

Galati is the state's biggest potato producer and is known for his battles against regulation in the industry.

"A lot of the wine producers in the state are suffering and we're giving them an avenue to sell their product through our facility," he said. "I'm a WA producer and I feel their frustration."

Apple and Pear Australia announces new CEO

The peak industry body for the Apple and Pear Industry, Apple and Pear Australia (APAL) has announced that John Dollisson will be taking over the chief executive position from October.

Dollisson will take over the position from Jon Durham who has served over twenty years with the industry body.

APAL chairman John Lawrenson said that he was confident that Dollisson's experience will help him manage the many challenges that the industry faces as reported by the Weekly Times Now.

"The board received a wide range of highly qualified candidates for the position which demonstrated great confidence in the apple and pear industry,'' said Lawrenson.

"John's extensive experience in working across large multi-dimensional industries and track record of influencing government decisions will help him to manage the many challenges facing the Australian apple and pear industry.''

Dollisson has previously held senior positions within the Australian Government and tobacco giant Phillip Morris International, as well as Boyer group and Eye Corp amongst others.

Dollisson said that he is thrilled to be working within the agricultural sector due to its propensity to grow.

"I am looking forward to working within the agriculture sector, a sector I believe has major growth potential,'' Dollisson said.

"The opportunity to represent and advocate for the apple and pear industry and the standing of APAL is exciting – it's what attracted me to the position.''

 

Fruit growers to save big with new green government grant

A new government grant, funded by carbon tax revenue, is expected to save fruit growers as much as 20 percent on their energy bills.

Apple and Pear Australia's Watts in Your Business Project is funded by the federal government’s Energy Efficiency Information Grants (EEIG) program, and is expected to help the country's apple, pear, summer fruit and cherry growers save on their energy bills.

Resources and Energy and Small Business minister, Gary Gray, said "Using energy audits, workshops, seminars, case studies and hands-on demonstrations, this project sees government, business and industry working together to understand the benefits energy efficiency can bring to small business."

"Through the EEIG program, we are engaging industry associations and non-profit organisations that have the networks and experience to help small and medium businesses from a range of sectors make informed decisions about energy efficiency," he said.

As part of the program, ongoing guidance and support is also offered to participants as they implement their energy efficiency plans.

 

Australia’s biggest banana producer expands north

The Mackay family, Australia's biggest producer of bananas, has expanded its geographic footprint into Cape York Peninsula to avoid cyclones.

According to weeklytimesnow.com.au, the family had been looking to expand its operation ever since Cyclone Larry wiped out most of its Tully and Innisfail banana crop in 2006.

The Mackays spent $10m for the site at Lakeland, which is a former timber plantation 400km north of Tully and 70km south of Cooktown.

"We've got 250 hectares under bananas at Cooktown and a licence for 2000 megalitres a year for underground water," spokesperson Barry Mackay said.

Mackay said the soils at the Gold Tyne plantation are good, but water availability is a problem, and given Lakeland's remote location, so could labour.

"We will be employing 80 people at Lakeland. We already employ 400 at Tully, so we will locate some Tully people at Lakeland plus backpackers," he said.

He expects to be picking in 18 weeks.

 

What are the next big beverage trends? [video]

According to research data from Innova Market Insights, healthy flavours and a growing interest in 'superfruits' will dictate the next round of flavour developments in the soft drink industry.

Herbs and spices, honey and 'new generation superfruits' (with pomegranate leading the way) will be the next big flavour trends in the global beverage market.

Innova Market Insights will present on the latest soft drink trends at its Taste the Trend pavilion at the upcoming IFT Food Expo in Chicago.

From June 2008 to May 2013, pomegranate has accounted for over 40 percent of Innova's tracked beverage launches featuring superfuit flavours, ahead of acai (12.5 percent) and lychee (12 percent), and other emerging flavours such as prickly pear and soursop.

Lu Ann Williams, head of research at Innova Market Insights, said "US launches over the past year including Cactus Juice and Cactus Tea from Nopal and Prickly Pear Cactus Tea from Hunter & Hilsberg, as well as Martinelli’s Prickly Passion Lemonade juice drink, featuring prickly pear puree."

Vegetable flavours are also featuring strongly in juices, smoothies and teas, Williams reports, often in combination with fruit flavours. The number of beverage launches featuring celery rose six-fold in 2012, while those featuring cucumber and beets doubled. Kale also started to feature in the beverages market in 2012.

In the US, beverage companies are also integrating hot and spicy elements in their products, such as black pepper and chillies.

Learn more about upcoming beverage trends by watching this video.

 

Food processing industry may achieve WTO safeguards

The productivity commission will be undertaking two six-month inquiries into whether the food processing industry will need World Trade Organisation emergency safeguards.

As reported by the Weekly Times Now, both inquiries will assess the impact of imported processed fruit and tomatoes on Aussie producers.

The commission will report on:

  • Whether conditions are such that safeguard measures would be justified under the WTO Agreement
  • if so, what measures would be necessary to prevent or remedy serious injury and to facilitate adjustment
  • whether, having regard to the Government’s requirements for assessing the impact of regulation which affects business, those measures should be implemented

The commission is expected to provide a report within three months confirming whether critical circumstances exist (which would be difficult to repair) due to a delay in applying suitable measures.

If these circumstances are found to exist, the commission will then recommend what provisional safeguard measures would be appropriate to take.

The final report is expected to be released with six months.

The decision to launch the investigation is said to have been prompted by SPC Ardmona who had recently given into pressure from cheap imported fruit products, resulting cutting supplies from over 170 growers in the Goulburn Valley region.

 

Victorian farmers push to sell only Aussie fruit in Supermarkets

A new proposal will be put before the Victoria Farmers Federation (VFF) at a conference in Melbourne tomorrow which will potentially force major supermarket chains to sell only Australian grown fruit.

If successful, the proposal will see supermarkets only stocking Aussie grown fruit in their home-branded, packaged fresh fruit products as reported by abc.net.au.

VFF’s president, Peter Tuohey, said that the push to exclusively sell Australian grown fruit is highly important for the country’s agricultural industry.

"It's important, particularly those Goulburn growers to try and sell their fruit because of the high cost of Australian production," he said.

"It's been left off the shelf and been replaced by imported products."

Victoria’s Goulburn Valley region has come under extreme pressure from the rise of imported products.  Earlier this year SPC Ardmona informed 170 growers that they are no longer needed which left many growers stuck with produce that they could not sell.

It has also been reported that over 750,000 unwanted fruit trees in the region are expected to be burned by spring to avoid the attraction of pests and associated diseases to the area.