Cheap imports create unfair playing field: Kagome

Kagome Australia, the country's last major tomato processors, has thrown its weight behind a Productivity Commission review into processed fruit imports, arguing Australian brands can't compete in today's marketplace.

According to ABC, CEO of Kagome Australia, John Brady, said cheap imports are making it difficult for Australian food manufacturers to stay afloat.

"Some of my clients don't exist any more, how is that for an indication, such as Rosella, they are closed.

"I've seen a concentration in my customer base because they've been unable to compete on a level playing field," he said.

The company, which makes canned tomato products and pastes, is supporting the recently announced Productivity Commission review into safeguards against imported processed fruits and tomatoes.

The Commission is to report its findings to the government within the next three months.

 

New SPC labelling could lead the push for stronger labelling laws

SPC Ardmona has decided to move the fine print from the back of its labels to the front, enabling consumers to easily identify where the ingredients originate from.

The company will now name the specific regions of where its fruit and vegetables are sourced from on the front of its labels, challenging current industry conventions.

“We want to ensure that consumers understand that SPC Ardmona uses Australian grown and made fruit and vegetables, '' managing director Peter Kelly told the Weekly Times Now.

`As part of our campaign to encourage all consumers to choose SPC Ardmona Australian brands over cheap imported private label products we have just launched brand new labels with stronger Australian grown and Australian made messages on our SPC peaches, pears and baked beans and spaghetti cans as well as our 100 per cent Australian Ardmona tomatoes.''

An example of the new label that will be displayed on SPC’s baked beans:

“SPC is proud to source all of its navy beans for SPC baked beans from Australia, from great places like the Queensland town of Kingaroy''

“If you're not eating SPC Baked Beans, you're eating beans sourced from overseas. And that means you're not supporting Australian farmers.''

The Green’s Country of Origin Labelling Bill which aims to simplify country of origin claims is still before parliament.

The new legislation would simplify labelling to one of three claims:

  • Product of or grown in Australia
  • Manufactured in Australia
  • Packaged in Australia 

Cheap import tariffs considered by Productivity Commission

The Productivity Commission will look into the possible introduction of "safeguards" against imported processed fruits and tomatoes, following SPC Ardmona's announcement that it will axe up to 114 growers for next summer.

The high exchange rate and a decline in export markets led the fruit processor to cut back its quotas, with the company asking the federal government to introduce special protection safeguards, including an emergency tax on imports.

As a member of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Australia has made binding commitments in relation to the trade of goods and services, but the WTO allows safeguard measures to be introduced in response to "unexpected and unforeseen increases in imports which are causing or threatening to cause serious injury to the domestic industry."

The Commission is to report its findings to the government within the next three months, far too liberal a time frame, according to KAP federal leader and member for Kennedy, Bob Katter.

"SPC Ardmona pleaded with the government several months ago for emergency safeguards, but on Friday we are told that an inquiry just to consider whether temporary tariffs are even justified is not due to report to government for another three months – after the election," he said.

Katter called on the government to endorse the emergency tariffs on cheap imports, which he says are threatening the viability of homegrown food processors, such as SPC.

"The competitiveness of Aussie food producers is already badly handicapped by our artificially-inflated Australian dollar, which makes it up to 60 percent cheaper to import foreign produce at the expense of Australian jobs and industry," he said.

"Let every Australian understand – SPCA is the not just our country's last fruit processor; it is also the Goulbourn Valley’s biggest private employer, injecting some $63 million into the local economy through almost 900 direct full-time staff and supporting a further 2700 jobs, including the training of young apprentices.

"The collapse of SPCA would lead to even more farmers being forced to leave their good quality, home-grown fruit go to rot on the ground," Katter said.

 

2012 saw trying times for Aussie apple and pear industry

Aggressive pricing tactics and a weakening processing sector resulted in the Aussie apple and pear industry enduring trying times over the past 12 months.

John Durham, managing director of Apple and Pear Australia said that downward pressure on price from the supermarkets placed significant strain on the industry.

“There was probably a slightly larger crop than is comfortably sold each year in Australia. It gave the opportunity for the retail sector to put a lot of downward pressure on price, and the industry suffered very badly through that,” said Mr Durham told ABC Rural.

Durham says that the push to lower prices in the retail sector resulted in unsustainable farm gate prices for growers.

“It’s hard to rationalise the situation where there is a major push through the retail sector for lower, lower prices, whilst on the supply side, we are having to absorb more in the way of costs.”

According to Durham, increased pressure has resulted in a number of growers exiting the industry altogether.

“It’s a tough choice, but there’s no compulsion to grow apples or oranges or bananas or produce anything in this country. And if financially it doesn’t work out, eventually people are going to leave the industry,” said Durham.

Although 2012 bought significant challenges to the industry, Durham said that 2013 has so far delivered a far more positive result.

“2013 has been a much better year so far. Growers have done quite reasonably with Gala [apple varieties] and the product that they have had in the market. So there is more optimism that 2013 will deliver a much better financial result for the industry.”

 

Goulburn Valley growers expected to destroy trees by spring

750,000 unwanted fruit trees are expected to be destroyed by spring in Victoria’s troubled Goulburn Valley region.

SPC Ardmona’s decision to no longer purchase fruit from the region has left growers with hundreds of tonnes of fruit that they are unable sell. The Weekly Times Now reports that the move will result in a 10 percent reduction of peach and pear trees in the state resulting in some growers operating at a loss, while others will have no income.

Agriculture Minister Peter Walsh announced a $2m rescue package last week which will give growers access to financial and personal counselling, as well as a program which will provide full time work for farmers and workers in the region.

"The Victorian Government is continuing to work with the Commonwealth to finalise arrangements for the Farm Finance concessional loans and we are also exploring further potential actions that can provide support to the Goulburn Valley's local economy," said Walsh.

The decision to announce the package is said to have been prompted by a report from Fruit Growers Victoria which outlined the dire situation that growers are now faced with.

The report estimates that orchard revenue will decrease by $10.4m, and over 1500 jobs will be lost. It also shows that 20 percent of businesses are unsalvageable, while a further 40 percent cannot gain access to loans as they are at their borrowing limit.

While the package has been welcomed by industry, Fruit Growers Victoria have said that growers will still need access to loans in order to remove unwanted trees before spring. Failure to destroy the trees will result in the attraction of fruit flies, pests and associated diseases to the area.

SPC Ardmona called upon the government for assistance in late April, and general manager Peter Kelly said that the company welcomes any efforts to assist growers.

"We welcome any efforts that will help our growers, and the food processing and horticulture industries as a whole, to overturn the reduced demand for Australian fruit caused by the influx of cheap, imported products," Kelly said.

"We … have been working around the clock preparing submissions to present to Government seeking appropriate intervention and support for SPCA and our remaining growers."

 

Superfoods: not so super after all?

Superfoods is a buzzword now part of mainstream food and health language, often touted as miracle foods that cure all ills, stave off ageing and disease, or aid weight loss.

In practice, superfoods are more readily evoked when it comes to exotic and ancient fruits. Goji berry and acai berry, for example, or pomegranate and mangosteen are all famously regarded as being super. Liver is actually more dense in nutrients than any of these foods, but have you ever heard it called a superfood?

As you may have guessed by now, superfood is not a scientifically or technically defined term. It’s not a word that medical professionals or researchers really use. Indeed, it has little meaning in the medical research community.

Nonetheless, enter superfood in any internet search engine and it will return millions of hits – mostly from news, magazines, blogs and sales sites. Repeat the search in the US National Library of Medicines online database of biomedical research publications, PubMed, and you get a grand total of three hits along with the helpful suggestion that you may have, in fact, intended to search for “superfund”.

But that doesn’t mean there’s no scientific research into superfoods. Researchers just don’t call them “super”. And there’s a good reason for this: the giant leap from testing foods in the lab to their amazing marketed powers is simply too far to be scientifically or ethically sound.

Just because a component of a superfood may kill cancer cells in a dish in the lab doesn’t mean that eating lots of a food containing this component will prevent you from getting cancer.

What’s more, the assumptions behind superfood science can be problematic. Much of the available evidence comes from cell culture or animal models. While these models are good tools for scientists, they don’t automatically apply to humans.

Humans have considerable environmental and genetic variances that make us much more complicated.

Even when these studies are done in humans, they’re often tested in very high concentrations over short durations that are not reflective of regular balanced diets. There simply aren’t enough long-term, realistic studies to support the claim that superfoods can stave off illness or old age.

It’s easy to see why the concept is popular …  But the idea may be doing more harm than good. At best, it’s a misleading marketing tool, at worst, it may encourage bad habits.

Superfoods can give people a false sense of security, letting them believe that they can somehow balance out other unhealthy habits.

The prohibitive cost of superfoods is also an issue. The average price of “super” berries such as goji and acai is tens of times higher than humble raspberries, blackberries or apples. But they certainly don’t have ten times the nutritional value.

A common feature of superfoods is that they contain large amounts of antioxidants.

Antioxidants protect cells in the body from free radicals, which are reactive molecules originating from sources such as cigarette smoke, processed foods and normal metabolism. Too many free radicals damage cells, leading to age-related diseases, such as cancers.

Most of the research on the health benefits of dietary antioxidants comes from cell and animal models. This research is, again, not necessarily transferable into the regular dietary context.

The studies that have been done in humans generally show short-term elevations of antioxidants after consuming particular foods in very high concentrations, as you would expect. Avoiding sources of free radicals to start with is probably more beneficial than trying to balance them out with antioxidants.

Nutrients are clearly important for good health but seeking out large doses from any one source is not likely to be beneficial. Simply having more of a particular vitamin or mineral is not necessarily better.

Indeed, too much can sometimes be just as harmful as not enough. Also, the body cannot store certain nutrients so there’s no benefit in consuming large amounts of them; they will only be expelled as waste.

A fixation on superfoods can distract people from the benefits of healthy everyday foods. What most western diets are lacking is not any one super source of nutrients, but variety. Everyday fruits, vegetables and whole foods each have their own unique nutrient profile and contain individual factors that can be said to promote health and wellbeing.

No single food item, or even the top ten superfoods combined, have enough superpowers to replace a balanced, varied and healthy diet. Couple this with avoiding excessive consumption of processed and refined foods and alcohol, and you will have done everything you can, nutritionally speaking, to help you stay healthy and well into old age.

Emma Beckett receives funding from CSIRO (CSIRO OCE PhD Scholar)

Zoe Yates 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.

 

State vs federal in WA grape gripe

A proposal to allow Californian grapes into Western Australia is seeing the state’s Department of Agriculture take on its federal counterpart in an effort to maintain its pest-free reputation.

According to thewest.com.au, the WA Department of Agriculture and Food is disputing the Federal department’s finding that grapes imported from California carry a low risk of bringing the fungal pathogen, phomopsis viticola, with them.

WA department's biosecurity experts are arguing that there is a high risk the pathogen could be introduced to the state, and would then threaten to wipe out its table grape and wine industries.

Growers from  Margaret River and Swan Valley have united to oppose the lifting of the ban on imports, with Swan Valley and Regional Winemakers Association president John Griffiths arguing that the federal department is putting free trade above the welfare of family-run vineyards.Griffiths said importing Californian grapes would open the door to several other pests and diseases including phylloxera and Pierce's disease, one of the biggest threats to grape growers.

 

Year-round supply a focus for new avocado group

The Avolution is a new avocado marketing company bringing producers from around the country together to help ensure consumers have a year-round supply of the fruit.

Officially launching in Sydney today [12/6/13), the Avolution's CEO, Antony Allen, said the company centralises the marketing of avocadoes, allowing producers to focus on growing high quality fruit.

"We are focused on the expansion of the avocado category, as well as making sure that growers are maximising returns on their fruit," he said.

Founded in March 2012 by major Queensland-based avocado producers Lachlan Donovan and Daryl Boardman, together with West Australian avocado packer Jennie Franceschi of Advanced Packing and Marketing Services, The Avolution represents growers in Queensland, Victoria and Western Australia and currently supplies 20 percent of Australia’s avocados.

Lachlan Donovan, director and co-owner of The Avolution, said he'd considered hiring a marketing professional to handle sales of avocadoes from his 50,000 trees in the Wide Bay area, but said the difficulty was the person would only be required for seven months of the year, when his fruit was picked and packed.

"The problem was there would be nothing for them to do for the rest of the year, and they would lose interest. So Daryl [Boardman] and I got together and worked out how we could develop a 12 month a year operation that could supply the chains, wholesalers and retailers all year round," Donovan said.

"We decided to get someone to manage the system and grow and develop the market not only for us, but for other Australian growers who needed help. We found the right person in Antony Allen."

Major avocado pack house, Advanced Packing and Marketing Services (APMS) in Western Australia then began supplying fruit for the months of the year when the east coast was not producing.

Between the three main pack houses, which includes a network of smaller growers who supply fruit to APMS and Boardman’s Sunnyspot Pack House in Ravensbourne, Queensland, The Avolution has a 12 month supply.

"Previously, there was a period in the year when the New Zealand marketers would come in and offer to supply avocados to the supermarket chains, because there was no unity of supply from the Australian growers," Donovan said.

"The Avolution was designed to give service to the chains, so they don’t have to go overseas chasing fruit. There is a 12 month supply of fruit here in Australia and if we can manage that supply it helps the whole system."

Since its formation, The Avolution has secured business with Woolworths, Coles and several independents including premium grocer Thomas Dux.

Allen said the 65 growers who currently supplied fruit to The Avolution benefited from the company’s fully recorded supply chain and quality assurance system, transparency and fixed costs to market fruit, as well as quick payment terms.

"With more growers making the switch to The Avolution, we predict the company will market over three million trays of fruit in the next few years," he said.

 

Robots could replace farm workers

If a research project from the University of Sydney has its way, robots will be replacing farm workers in the next five to 10 years.

According to the ABC, the project is getting robots to recognise fruit and is also working on developing trees which are easier to harvest.

Dr Salah Sukkariah, head of Robotics Research, said "That's that classic scenario, where you could sit down and say, I'm going to invest the next 10 years of Research and Development where a robot can reach into the middle of a tree and grab an apple, or you could actually change tree architecture.

"You have something of benefit to the tree in terms of efficiency, and almost make it easier for robotics."

 

Quit your whinging, it’s our fault! AUSBUY’s take on Simplot and McCains cutbacks

In light of recent announcements from Simplot and McCains regarding cutbacks to their produce supply, AUSBUY have come out to say that when it comes down to it, the only ones to blame are ourselves.

McCains Foods and Simplot have blamed the ever powerful Aussie dollar and the threat of cheap imports for their drop in profits leading to a reduction in renewed supplier contracts and the possible closure of two processing plants respectively.

But is the problem really the fact that we have sold the majority of our major food companies to the foreign entities who make production decisions in boardrooms around the globe?

AUSBUY poses a good argument… Below is a statement they released this morning: 

Stop whinging – we have done this to ourselves!!! Simplot (USA) has been a relatively benign foreign investor since it bought many of the brands and factories formerly owned by the Australia Public Company in the mid 1990s (Edgells). 

Likewise we thought McCains (Canada) was here to stay. Will they follow the Heinz example to set up in New Zealand and sell back to us? Decisions are now made overseas about the closure of factories.

We have been complicit in the decline of our food manufacturing in Australia. Over the past three decades we have allowed majority control beyond the farm gate of every major food commodity except rice.

The Australian Consumer and Competition Commission has overseen the loss of control to overseas interests and retailers in the name of competitiveness, while our farmers and our local manufacturers are expected to play to a different set of rules to their competitors. 

While we claim food manufacturing is the largest manufacturing sector we have remaining, Australia has no major food companies. Decisions about our manufacturing are made in overseas board rooms, not here.

Other countries look after their own. New Zealand has the largest dairy company in the world, Fonterra. New Zealand obtained an amendment under the WTO rules to stop imports which impact their strategic industries. New Zealand stopped the sale of eight dairy farms to the Chinese last year because it did not meet the national interest test.

Its government cannot divest assets which are their for the long term interest of its citizens. Australians have no rights. Countries such as the USA strictly control manufactured goods through labelling law compliance. They decide what products will be sold in the USA.

Despite the warning signs, Australian decision makers turned a blind eye. Foreign investment at any cost has been the call cry! And our people are bearing the consequences! In recent years we have condoned the importation of packaged foods and fresh produce which does not meet our standards.

Dumping is rife! Our labelling laws are inadequate. We have under resourced our gate keepers AQIS, Bio Security Australia and Australian Standards. In recent years, aided by our high A$, our open door policy to imports, and our largess and benevolence to help developing countries, we have imported foods in direct competition with own farmers and their skills. Our borders are not secure. Imports are coming from countries with labels which do not meet our standards, are replacing local producers on the shelf.

The growth of private label among the retailers has also put addition burden on our manufacturers to compete on price with overseas manufacturers if they want to keep their factories operational.

In addition, in recent years we have been net importers of food. While retailers might espouse their support for fresh produce on the shelves, imported foods are being substituted for local produce in many manufactured goods. Made in Australia does not mean it is owned here or sourced here with the current rules of 51% substantial transformation.

The problem in Australia is further exacerbated by the closures in our regional areas where produce is “value added”, creating skilled manufacturing jobs while our farming skills are retained.

 The Australian owned businesses who are competing in this environment deserve our support. AUSBUY was prescient in warning of the consequences of loss of control of our wealth creating assets when it formed during the recession we had to have in 1991. 

Australia’s challenge in the coming years is to rebuild our nation, get our people working productively for Australia again, and reinvesting in our future. If we cannot find answers to the questions we are asking then ask other questions. The seeds of the future are in those Australian owned companies and our farmers, many of whom have the answers. Are we listening?

 

Government talks provide hope for fruit growers

Goulburn Valley orchardist Peter Hall, along with fellow fruit growers and officials from the Manufacturing Workers Union discussed the regions fruit crisis with parliamentarians in Canberra yesterday.

Following the decision to cut the supply of fruit significantly from the region earlier this year due to increased imports, SPC Ardmona has called for the implementation of emergency safeguard measures from the Federal Government to protect growers in the future as reported by the Weekly Times Now.

According to Hall, figures from the growers’ association showed that SPCA’s discontinuation of contracts with 60 growers would equate to around 1800 jobs lost. Despite this, Hall believes that the government is making progress on the issue.

"I get the sense there is some movement on it, but from a fruit growers point of view it's been very hard to get government's ear when it comes to these things in the past,'' Mr Hall said.

"We were basically told the Coalition was supportive of the measures if they fitted the WTO protocols, and the government is listening to us at the very least.

"We're still in limbo, but this is an unfolding crisis and the more discussion this opens up, from a farming perspective, the better.''

Hall believes that the downfall of major food processors Rosella and Heinz should serve as a warning to industry.

 "We want to pay good wages to workers, we don't want fruit covered in chemicals, but we need to be given this support to go on doing it. Otherwise there won't be a fruit industry here that's competitive.''

"This is an Australian industry which – despite all the challenges – has been profitable for 100 years.''

 

McCain Foods under pressure from Aussie dollar and imports

Food processor McCain Foods has confirmed that four potato growers in Ballarat will not have their contracts renewed for the October/ November harvest period.

The decision to cut the growers contracts was allegedly made due to the strong Aussie dollar and the threat of cheap imports according to the Weekly Times Now.

Supply chain director Gerry Farnell said the company had been in discussions with growers across the country over supply and individual requirements for the past three months.

"The company has a long-standing history with many growers in Ballarat, Tasmania and South Australia, and we are committed to maintaining those relationships where we can," said Farnell.

Farnell says that surplus potatoes from last year’s harvest combined with lower consumer demand and in increase in imports, fuelled the company’s decision to reduce supply.

"Only a decade ago, Australia's potato growers were competitive and import-resistant, and this should be the No.1 priority for growers," he said.

However some growers have claimed that McCain ‘bullied’ them, stating that they risked the cancellation of thier contracts if they did not concede to lower prices.

"Anyone who has spoken out no longer supplies McCain," one grower said.

 

Trying times could see Simplot plants shut up shop

Simplot Australia has advised employees that two of its plants are under threat of closure, with the food manufacturer blaming a very competitive industry and unsustainably high costs.

The plants, located in Bathurst, NSW and Devonport, Tasmania are currently not competitive because of the rise of cheaper imported products,  a Simplot statement reads, and this is only exacerbated by the high Australian dollar.

The announcement follows a six month review of Simplot’s supply chain operations in the vegetable category.

Simplot Australia managing director, Terry O’Brien, said the company’s most pressing challenge is to seek sustainable improvement opportunities with key stakeholders, to help the plants’ financial performance bounce back to the required level.

"The frozen and canned vegetable categories have been chronic profit under-performers for years, regardless of the value of the Australian dollar," O’Brien said.

Meetings are being scheduled with local, state and federal government representatives, employees, unions, suppliers and growers to discuss profit improvement opportunities.

"If insufficient opportunities are identified, we will be forced to close our Bathurst plant after the next corn season. Our Devonport plant will be required to produce a five year improvement plan with satisfactory outcomes or face the prospect of a longer term (three to five year) closure," he said.

John Brent, chair of Ausveg, made similar comments recently, arguing that labour, power and water costs in Australia are too high, forcing food processors offshore.

"If you want a future manufacturing industry in Queensland or Australia, these things need to be reviewed and understood," he said.

Canned fruit company, SPC, can surely empathise with Simplot, after recently asking the government to step in and help save its Goulburn Valley growers by imposing an emergency tax on imported tin fruit.

The company told growers at meetings in April that their produce would not be accepted from 1 May, with the high exchange rate and a decline in export markets causing SPC to dramatically reduce its fruit intake.

SPC said the high exchange rate and a decline in export markets forced the decision.

 

Cost of doing business forcing processors offshore

New Zealand's primary producers are reaping the benefits of the high cost of doing business here in Australia.

Coles' Robert Hadler said food processors are heading to New Zealand because labour costs are too high, with Australia paying its food manufacturing workers $10 more an hour than their Kiwi counterparts.

According to ABC, John Brent, chair of Ausveg, agrees costs are too high, referrring specifically to power, water and labour.

"If you want a future manufacturing industry in Queensland or Australia, these things need to be reviewed and understood," he said.

Unsurprisingly, New Zealand growers couldn't be happier. Head of the peak growers group, Vegetables New Zealand, said at the Ausveg conference on the Gold Coast over the weekend that the industry is experiencing a resurgence.

"Beetroot crops have come back, carrots have come back, and it's come back to the region where it was originally; back into Hawkes Bay, back into parts of the South Island," he said.

 

Fast & Fruity by Freshfields

Product name: Fast & Fruity

Product manufacturer: Freshfields

Ingredients: 100 percent fruit – apple, berries, peaches etc

Shelf life: 12-18 months

Packaging: Resealable pouch

Brand website: https://shop.enzafoods.co.nz/

What the company says
A new fruit range, Fast & Fruity by Freshfields, has just been launched in Australia and is available in Coles stores nationally.

Injecting new life into a tiring tinned fruit category, the Fast & Fruity range are great tasting, pourable, chunky 100 percent pure fruit with absolutely no added sugar. They are perfect for consumers wanting a quick and easy breakfast topping or ingredient for anything from smoothies and baking to ice blocks and pancakes.

Each pouch is conveniently re-sealable, has no added sugar, no added preservatives, sulphites or sodium and is gluten-free. The 500g pouch packs come in three flavours; be-licious berry and apple, golden peaches with a hint of vanilla and sunshine sweet tropical fruits.

Unlike tinned fruit, the Fast & Fruity pouches deliver fruit that is not drowning in sugary syrup, which means more real fruit and less sugar. Additionally, in comparison to the drain weight of tinned fruit, Fast & Fruity offers good value in terms of pure volume of fruit per 100gms, representing a strong value proposition for consumers.

All fruit contents are picked and packaged with absolute freshness in mind and the innovative twist-top re-sealable packaging allow for the product to have a distinctly longer shelf-life.

Fast & Fruity are available in the tinned fruit aisle of Coles supermarkets nationally from May 29, 2013 ($4.59 for a 500g pouch pack).

 

Strawberry study serves as sweet news for growers

New research from the University of Western Australia has provided valuable insights into the devastating fungal infection, Fusarium Wit which attacks strawberries.

The strawberry killer is said to destroy over one million strawberry plants in WA alone according to ABC Rural.

 “We have been able to identify the first true host resistance in strawberries to this devastating pathogen worldwide,” said Professor Martin Barbetti from UWA.

“[Fusarium Wilt] has a big impact on strawberry production in Australia and it has a big impact on strawberry exports from Australia. Up until now, it has been hard for growers to even know what the core of the problem was.”

The researchers teamed up with local strawberry growers including Gerry Verheyen who has been involved in the project since 2008. Verheyen says that the fungal infection significantly impacts on the industry and current treatment options are very costly.

“It will be the biggest issue [for the industry] in the future,” he said.

Some strawberry varieties have proven to be more resistant than others, but tend to perform poorly with consumers at the checkout. The research sought inform growers of how to better produce more resistant commercial varieties by uncovering how the resistance operates and what make its durable.

"We knew long term that if [growers] are really going to be able to maintain a strawberry industry in Western Australia, they need to be able to access varieties that are resistant to Fusarium wilt,” said Barbetti.

 

Federal Government’s National Food Plan to be launched on Saturday

The Federal Government’s new National Food Plan will be launched this weekend and is expected to outline government wide policies for food production, processing and accessibility.

Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig, has announced the creation of a new Food and Beverage Supplier Advocate who will work with small to medium sized Australian businesses to help build new opportunities both within Australia and globally.

According to ABC News, Ludwig stated that the new advocate, who is yet to be revealed, will provide valuable assistance to suppliers looking to expand into new markets.

"The first National Food Plan is a roadmap that will set the direction of the future of food by governments, businesses and individuals all working together. Developing food and beverage markets, especially in Asia, is a key priority identified in The National Food Plan, but also in the Plan for Australian Jobs and the Australia in the Asian Century white paper," he said.

As part of the National Food Plan, Ludwig has also announced a $1.5m small grants program with grants ranging between $10,000 to $25,000 to support local initiatives from framers markets, and food rescue plans to community gardens and city plans.

 

Concentrated facts on juice and health

Obesity is a growing concern for food manufacturers. As the size of the average Australian waistline continues to expand, everything from salt intake, fat content and sugar have been under scrutiny, forcing businesses to develop healthier alternatives. 

Mainstream media has bombarded the public with new findings of what we should and shouldn’t eat, what new superfood will prevent cancer and why we need every type of fortified vitamin under the sun, just to function.

But has the public actually lost touch of what we should be eating? It wouldn’t be surprising, considering every other day a new study releases conflicting health messages on the value of a piece of bread.

So what about juice? Juice has received a huge amount of flak in recent years, but isn’t juice essentially a piece of whole fruit in liquid form? Can’t be that bad surely?

2013 Australian Dietary Guidelines

The 2013 Australian Dietary Guidelines, which were released in February, state that a small glass of 100 percent fruit juice can be a beneficial part of a healthy, balanced diet for all people, including children.

This is a welcome statement for peak industry body, Fruit Juice Australia (FJA) which has recently commissioned an online consumer survey as well as evidence-based research reviews on the validity of ‘scaremongering’ claims surrounding fruit juice.

The online consumer survey of 1,000 Australian parents aimed to shed light on the validity of negative health claims surrounding fruit juice, including portion sizes and sugar content.

Findings in the survey indicate that one in four parents feels guilty about feeding their children fruit juice, and that parents in general are conflicted about the issue.

FJA chief executive, Geoff Parker, says that certain facts are routinely omitted from the controversial debate, including that 100 percent fruit juice has no added sugar and contains many of the same nutritional qualities, apart from dietary fibre, as whole fruit.

“The pendulum has swung too far in terms of disapproval by some commentators for what is in reality a healthy, natural option for children. We’re simply asking people to consider the facts about juice,” he said.

Squeezing out the evidence

In order to re-establish a healthy profile for juice, FJA commissioned an evidence-based research review titled Fruit Juice and Diet Quality – Squeezing out the Evidence which aims to inform health care professionals and the public about the benefits of 100 percent juice products.

The review showed positive correlations between children who consumed fruit juice as part of their diet with significantly higher intakes of four essential nutrients: folate, vitamin C, magnesium and potassium.

 “What the research overwhelmingly found was that people who consume fruit juice have an overall better quality to their diet,” Parker told Food Magazine.

The negative press that fruit juice has received over the past few years relates largely to the concentrated sugar content and lost nutrients during processing. Once fruit has been juiced, it loses a significant amount of nutrients found in the skin – carotenoids and flavonoids – and the pulp, which contains dietary fibre.

The Dieticians Association of Australia (DAA) states that while fruit juice can provide valuable nutrients, many varieties naturally contain a comparable amount of sugar and kilojoules to soft drinks. The DAA also points out that juice contains a relatively low amount of fibre when compared to fresh whole fruit.

Furthermore, a study conducted by Melbourne’s Deakin University on the association of key foods and beverages with obesity in Australian school children, found that children who drank fruit juice were more likely to be overweight than those who didn’t drink it. The study stated that “children who ‘usually’ drank fruit juice twice or more per day were 1.7 times more likely to be overweight/ obese compared with those who drank these beverages once or less per week.”

FJA states that if an individual consumes 100 percent fruit juice as part of a balanced diet, then the sugar content shouldn’t be of concern.

“We think that part of the negative image is the result of the sugar content of juice, which again is quite perplexing because all of the sugar in juice is completely natural and comes directly from the originating fruit. Juice has sugar, like fruit has sugar, it should be no surprise to people,” said Parker.

“The FJA is not saying that everyone should drink a 600ml glass of juice everyday, because for most people that is going to be way too much in a normal diet.

“A small glass of juice sitting around the 125ml mark can contribute to meeting a fruit serve and unfortunately a lot of kids are not meeting their daily intake of fruit serves, and when you look at that small glass being equivalent to one serve of fruit, it contributes to that daily intake.

“Research shows, and the Australian dietary guidelines have come out recently to show, that a small glass of 100 percent fruit juice – we are talking about half a cup or just about 125ml – is perfectly fine everyday as part of an overall diet,” he said.

But what about serving sizes?

So should the debate then turn to the issue of serving sizes? It has been widely publicised that everything in moderation is a good thing, so should the beverage industry be looking towards individual serving sizes that reflect the recommended daily intake?

A typical beverage serving size is 200 – 250ml, which is reflected in the popular tetra packs sold in supermarkets and placed in children’s lunchboxes. The daily recommended intake of juice is 125ml, half the typical serving size, making it harder for parents to control servings and no doubt a serious concern as national obesity rates in both adults and children continue to rise.

“There does seem to be some technical manufacturing problems when you start to go down to smaller than 200ml,” said Parker. “But then again if children are consuming 200mls of juice, then parents need to give consideration to what else is making up their diet. Not to say that 200mls of juice is bad or too much.”

Parker believes that the issue boils down to individual lifestyles, kilojoules requirements and personal/parental responsibility.

 “All kilojoules matter, whether kids are consuming extra kilojoules from juice or from breakfast cereal, if kids are having two serves of breakfast cereal a day they are probably also going to show a correlation between that overconsumption and obesity. Consumption, particularly for kids, comes down to parental responsibility.”

Parker believes that a holistic approach is the most effective way to ensure that consumers get adequate nutrients, and the inclusion of a serve of juice will only help to contribute towards that daily nutritional goal.

In order for individuals and children to reach their nutrition goals, nothing compares to fresh whole fruit and vegetables. However today’s time poor society has a penchant for convenience, therefore access to fresh produce can be restricted. In which case, a tetra pack of 100 percent juice will no doubt serve as a welcome source of nutrients. 

 

Cider consumption tipped to double

Australia’s recent love for cider does not appear to be a passing phase with consumption predicted to double within the coming years.

Ian Kingham, national merchandise manager for beverages at Woolworths told ABC News that he believes the nation’s love for cider will double in the next five years, serving as a welcome statement to struggling apple growers and orchardists who are looking to enter the boutique market.

"Because we're seeing so many consumers looking for new products and looking to try different ciders, we're starting to find that the propensity for different retailers and hoteliers to take some extra range is opening up," said Kingham.

"In terms of the hotel industry, it's still quite fragmented, so that probably requires a lot of door-knocking."

The past few years has seen massive growth in the boutique beverage category with brands such as Swedish Rekorderlig launching innovative marketing campaigns to capture the market and a steady increase of new local brands such as Franks, making a name for themselves in the marketplace

Coles and Woolies launch initiatives to source locally

The nation’s supermarket giants, Coles and Woolworths have both recently launched initiatives to source produce from local producers in Far North Queensland.

The decision to source locally has largely been a result of consumers pushing for local produce as reported by www.carins.com. Findings in a 2011 Value of Australian Made survey found that 70 percent of respondents want access to more home-grown produce.

Woolworths “Local Sourcing” strategy was launched this year while Coles will hold a meeting with producers promoting its, “Meet the Buyer” program on 4 June.

Mark Matthews, chief executive of Advance Cairns believes that the initiatives will provide excellent growth and economic benefits to the region.

“We talk about buying locally and promoting the food bowl we have within the region but it’s not clearly understood how much we supply to the state,” he said.

“It would raise the profile of how important the region is in providing fresh food to the rest of the state and Australia as a whole.”

Coles with launch their “meet the buyer” events in Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania which the supermarket hopes will result in the introduction of over 100 new products.

Mark Scates, general manager for Coles Queensland believes that the program will provide valuable opportunities for local suppliers.

“We’re keen to meet the increasing demand for more locally-sourced food and we believe our Meet the Buyer events in Cairns and Brisbane will provide food producers with a great opportunity to show us why their products should be on our shelves,” he said.

A Woolworths spokesman said that the local sourcing strategy will bring more locally produced food to consumers in the region.

“Our new local sourcing strategy will give smaller suppliers the opportunity to work with Woolworths to a capacity that suits their business, whether that’s supplying three stores of 300,” he said.

“We know our customers love having a choice of local produce.”