Beating the drought and the duopoly: Impi Citrus

South Australia's seven year drought meant little more than shorter showers and watering the garden at night for most of the state. But for fruit growers and packers like Impi Citrus, it must have seemed like the end of the world.

The Murray River stopped flowing, gathering in tepid pools, and all the while slim water allowances were getting slimmer. The Cant family, owners and operators of Impi since 1969, decided that rather than dwindle and die, it was time for drastic action.

Ben Cant, son of owners Bronwyn and Jim, is a driving force in much of the overhaul that was to come.
"It was a family decision we made, but yeah, it was a punt. I think every day in horticulture is a punt really. We used the drought as an opportunity to reduce plantings," Ben says.

This meant pulling out almost half of their 25,000-tree fruit orchard in 2005. Their older trees were using more water and producing less fruit as the Australian dollar skyrocketed to record exchange rates, killing exports for the Riverland growers.

2006 marked a new beginning for the business, but one filled with risk. They sold off some of their land to fund a major replanting of young trees, which use less water than old ones. The trade off is that the young trees are still years away from producing.

"You take your best educated guess," says Ben, "you say it might take five to seven years for the trees to reach maturity, and we think droughts usually go for five to seven years."

The replanting allowed for the Cants to diversify their offering.  Previously focused on low-value Valencia oranges, which mature early and mostly end up in juice, Impi planted late-maturing Navel oranges. It matched up with high demand they'd see toward the end of the season.

"We've tried to spread our risk a little bit. As a grower we have a fairly balanced portfolio. We have Navel oranges that go for export, Valencia for juice. Then there's mandarins and grapefruit for the domestic market," Ben explains.

"We cross supply to all of those markets, but the bulk of the supply of those commodities is targeted to particular markets."

Those targeted markets are very important, because, as Ben says, "citrus is principally export driven." Most of their premium, value-added products take off to Asia and beyond, and Australia produces much more citrus than they consume – just like the wine industry.

For growers, this can be a boon – or a disaster if they're unprepared for the issues outside of their control that come with it.

"What can happen is, farmers get dragged in to an agri-political issue. We even get worried about the Japanese whaling thing, because Japan is Australia's largest market for citrus.

"We do a little bit of export, but only enough to keep a toe in the door. It just means that, from a business perspective, should things turn south with Japan or wherever, we're supplying several different markets and our business doesn't come to a standstill."

Their domestic operations have been the focus of a huge infrastructure rethink and investment. The Cants have put millions of dollars in to a new packhouse and new technology to go with it.

"Our old packhouse was the original on the property. There were all sorts of issues, like getting staff there because it's half an hour out of the nearest town. It's on the end of the power network so it can be very unreliable power in poor weather.

"Although most of the fruit was from our own farm, we started packing for another grower and that meant bringing fruit on to the property that could compromise the biosecurity of our own orchard."

"We even get worried about the Japanese whaling thing, because Japan is Australia's largest market for citrus."

For Impi, it's much cleaner and safer to do everything off-site. It also means they have ample storage space and they're now right next to the freight network, meaning they have three shipping companies within a stone's throw.

Ben has led the charge on retooling the packhouse to be a state of the art, largely automated facility.
The first of their gadgets is a million dollar citrus-sorter, a rig of cameras that takes 21 photos of each fruit, constructing a 3D model of the blemishes and colour variations that make up its grade. It can do this for 40 fruit a second.

"It reduces the number of people visually sorting the fruit. Although the internal quality is all the same, citrus is graded on appearance. The machine we have now, it's industry standard – but it's the best in the industry."

"We probably have about $2.5 million worth of processing and packaging equipment in our packhouse. All in the effort to do things as efficiently as possible, to automate as much as we can."

There's one last and very significant area where Impi pushed ahead of the pack. In a prescient move, Impi anticipated the now-realised supremacy of Coles and Woolworths in the domestic market.

"We saw this cultural shift and the rise of the duopoly occurring in the Australian retail market. There was a bit of fear in the industry, a lot of packers and shippers were hesitant about working with them and wanted to maintain the ways of the past, the tried and true ways," Ben explains.

"We figured, well, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. You might as well be at the front of the queue."

Their domestic supply chain was turned on its head. Previously Impi had worked with 10 or more agents around the country, around two in each capital city. While it wasn't bad business when supply was more distributed, it quickly became inefficient in the duopoly market created by the big chains.

"We decided to partner with one agent who is effectively a category manager for the chain stores. When we can't supply fruit, they'll source it from other packers as well. We're kind of like a primary supplier to them.

"What we're able to do is negotiate a better brokerage rate, or sales rate commission in to the supermarket, because we're using one company for all of the transactions instead of six."

For Impi, it results in a much more direct relationship with the retailer, which completely changes their method of picking, processing and shipping.

In the past, selling through agents meant overnight or two-night shipping to most capital cities. Rather than it sitting in the market for another day or two waiting for buyers to commit, it ships directly to Woolworths or Coles, resulting in a fresher product that looks better and can be on shelves for longer.

"There's no stretch or slack in the supply chain. It's much tighter," Ben says.

"We figured, well, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. You might as well be at the front of the queue."

Wholesalers can't store and speculate on Impi fruit anymore, which is good for their rate. But it also means there's a lot more work for Impi, as they now customise their picking and harvest program based on weekly orders direct from the retailers.

"You're running on a knife edge," Ben says, "Every week when you get the program, bang, you've got to get the harvest sorted within a day or two and start the picking program."

In some ways this results in big risks – if Impi loses a day or more of picking to rain they can be in trouble – but it also means they're only picking and packing products to order. No more sustaining a loss on fruit that doesn't get sold.

"That makes a big difference," Ben emphasises.

The process of innovating and changing hasn't stopped for Impi. Out of the drought and the bad times, they could easily settle in to their current routine, lie back on their investments and coast. But the Cants aren't like that. Impi Citrus is looking forward.

Ben explains that they're more than happy nurturing their domestic customers in what seems to be a saturated market. Now they're turning their eyes East.

"China is huge, we've barely even scratched the surface. Japan is our largest export market now. And there's the free-trade agreement with Korea that's just about to be signed off by both parliaments."

Korea is the United States' largest market for citrus. Being counter-seasonal to Australia, Ben and Impi see that as a void that can be filled. In 10 years’ time the tariff will reduce to zero, and the market will be open suddenly.

"It really is a case of how many trees we can get in the ground."


Fair Work inspectors to visit North QLD farms

A team of four Fair Work Ombudsman inspectors will visit capsicum, tomato and banana farms around Bowen and Tully next week as part of an ongoing focus on seasonal workers.

The inspectors will make unannounced visits to properties selected at random to speak with growers and labour hire contractors about their obligations under federal workplace laws.

One property has been earmarked for investigation following information suggesting that seasonal workers may be receiving less than their minimum entitlements.

Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James said it is important that employers at Bowen and Tully understand their workplace obligations, and improving awareness is the main focus of the visits.

However, James said any non-compliance issues that come to light will be addressed.

The Fair Work Ombudsman continues to receive underpayment complaints from seasonal harvest workers and many are substantiated.

Last month, Fair Work inspectors wrote to about 60 employers around Bowen and Tully to advise them of this week’s field visits.

Over the next few years the Fair Work Ombudsman will visit dozens of fruit and vegetable farms throughout Australia as part of its focus on the entitlements of seasonal harvest workers.

“We want to ensure employers understand and meet their workplace obligations and we’re also seeking information about industry factors that influence compliance levels,” James said.

“This knowledge will help us to better target our education and campaign activities, particularly in relation to the overseas workers employed in this sector.”


NZ avocado sales double

New Zealand’s avocado industry has more than doubled its sales from last season to reach $136 million, setting new records in both export and local markets.

The previous record was $84.1 million set in 2009-10, and the latest figures easily trump the $60.4 million recorded last year.

Jen Scoular, chief executive of NZ Avocado, said initiatives to make the industry more cohesive and competitive are responsible for the growth. “Our focus over the last 12 months has been to promote far more collaboration across the avocado industry – with growers, packers, New Zealand marketers, exporters and those supporting our industry. This has allowed us to start addressing and resolving issues that have previously held us back,” she said.

This season saw the successful amalgamation of the industry’s two largest exporters into one exporting group to Australia – its largest market – and the continued collaboration of three exporters under one brand into Asia. 

In April this year, the Avocado Industry Council secured a Primary Growth Partnership (PGP) program with the Ministry for Primary Industries to increase productivity and capability and to increase sales to $280 million by 2023.

The five year program, New Zealand Avocados Go Global, will leverage the growing demand in New Zealand and in Asia for premium, safe and healthy produce.  

“There’s a world-wide trend towards eating fresh, healthy food and the nutritional benefits of eating avocados are now widely recognised and understood by consumers. This presents us with a fantastic opportunity to capitalise on this season’s sales growth going forward,” Scoular said.

This season’s $135.9 million return comprises 4.9 million 5.5kg trays of avocados: $102.9 million worth were exported, while $33 million worth were sold in New Zealand. Last year a total of 2.6 million trays were produced, totalling $31.7 million worth of exports, and $28.7 million of local sales.

Scoular said this season’s results also reflect the increased promotional and market development activities to raise awareness of the benefits of eating avocados, and to drive consumption.


Country-of-origin labelling should be revised without government regulation, AFGC

Peak industry group for the Australian grocery sector, the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) has said that it is willing to work with stakeholders to help meet community expectations for country of origin labelling.

The industry group opposed changes to country-of-origin labelling before parliament last year, however, CEO Gary Dawson has now said that there could be an opportunity to re-work current terms such as “grown in and product of”, to increase community understanding without developing a new network of regulation, The Weekly Times reports.

He pointed to the recent example of SPC Ardmona’s resurgence as proof that government regulation of labelling was not necessary.

“Where (country of origin) is a driver of consumer preference, companies will incorporate it into their marketing and promotion. The most recent example of that was SPC,” Dawson told a parliamentary hearing into labelling laws.

“Regulatory changes were not required in that case. If it is not a driver of consumer preference and, therefore, not of great interest, then there is a question over how far you should go with regulation.”

On the other side of the coin, the Australian Made Campaign appeared before the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Agriculture and Industry in Canberra earlier this month to give evidence to into its country of origin food labelling inquiry.

The Australian Made campaign’s chief executive Ian Harrison, together with compliance and policy manager Lisa Crowe, made recommendations to the committee on how food labelling laws could be improved to support Australian growers and manufacturers. 

Harrison and Crowe stated that an effective country-of-origin labelling system that is both understood and trusted by consumers, will help combat companies that are “attempting to mislead consumers regarding their products’ true country-of-origin.”

“Today we again recommended that the regulations under Australian Consumer Law fall into line with the more stringent rules for using the Australian Made, Australian Grown logo, thereby eradicating some of the loopholes that currently exist,” Harrison said.


Adding GST to fresh food is a recipe for poor health

Recent calls by Australian government ministers and senior officials to broaden the goods and services tax (GST) base to include fresh fruit and vegetables would make the population’s diet go from bad to worse.

The latest Australian Health Survey results show less than 7% of the Australian population meet the recommended intake of vegetables (five serves per day for adults), and just over half (54%) meet the recommended serves of fruit (two serves per day for adults).

In contrast, a staggering 35% of the nation’s total energy consumed is from “discretionary foods” – foods considered to be of little nutritional value that tend to be high in saturated fat, sugar and salt, or alcohol.

Indeed, the poor diet of the population is now the biggest contributor to disease and illness in Australia – even more than smoking. And the main driver of the problem is the ever-increasing supply of cheap, tasty, high-calorie foods that are heavily marketed and widely available.

As other countries consider ways to combat the problem, the Australian government seems to be discussing options that will make it worse.

Effects of adding GST to fresh food

Price is one of the most important factors that consumers take into account when deciding what to buy. Taste is the other main consideration.

Fresh fruit and vegetables are currently exempt from GST, which means there’s an incentive to buy them rather than less healthy processed food.

Recent estimates show that if the 10% GST were applied to fresh fruit and vegetables, their overall consumption would decrease by about 5%.

When the long-term effects of this change are modelled, this would result in an additional 90,000 cases of heart disease, stroke and cancer each year, increasing health-care costs by around $1 billion.


Consumption of ‘discretionary foods’ may increase with the removal of the GST exemption on fruits and vegetables. Flickr: Muy Yum, CC BY-NC-ND


The effects are likely to be felt strongest by people with low incomes. This group tends to spend a large proportion of its income on food and already has poorer health outcomes.

Global actions in this area

A move to increase taxes on fresh fruit and vegetables would fly in the face of global recommendations to improve poor health. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends governments consider different economic tools (such as taxes and subsidies) to improve the affordability of healthier foods and discourage the consumption of less healthy options.

Several countries have recently adopted new taxes on unhealthy foods in line with these recommendations. From this year, Mexico has introduced a 10% tax on sugary drinks and a 5% tax on unhealthy snack foods. And Hungary has introduced a tax on unhealthy foods.

Estimates show that if Australia were to increase taxes on unhealthy food by 10%, this would greatly benefit health and result in substantial cost savings to the government.

Evidence indicates the revenue generated from a tax on unhealthy foods should be used to subsidise fruit and vegetables in order to get even better health outcomes.

Public health set to decline

Australia has long been recognised as a public health leader for its preventive health actions and, in particular, its efforts to reduce tobacco use.

But this reputation is set to decline with the massive cuts to preventive health in the latest budget.

If the country were to increase taxes on fruit and vegetables, it would undermine the reductions in chronic disease that have resulted from national success in tackling smoking.

It would also place the country at the bottom end of the list of countries taking globally recommended actions to improve population nutrition.

The question of how best to approach Australia’s rising health care, education and social welfare costs is clearly an important one. But we need to consider the ramifications of potential solutions on short- and long-term economic, social, environmental and health outcomes.

The Conversation

Gary Sacks receives funding from the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC)

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

Rising apple prices to hit cider makers

Cider makers could be paying up to $1,000 a tonne for apples by the end of the year.

A fruit shortage has been created in some regions by severe weather events across Australia, ABC News reports.

John Power, general manager of the Batlow Fruit Co-Operative in south-west NSW, said juice fruit will be in high demand.

"Instead of a bigger crop being picked and going into cool store and the juice fruit is separated at packing, which happens right throughout the year, this year a large percentage of the fruit that was going to juice went straight off the tree,” Power said. "The price was low to start with, but now the price is going up very quickly.”

"I suspect there is going to be a shortage of juice fruit as we come to the end of the year."

Mr Power says that earlier this year growers would have been lucky to get $200 a tonne for juice grade apples.


Public health group rejects push to tax healthy food

Peak non-government organisation for public health in Australia, the Public Health Association of Australia (PHAA) has urged State and Territory leaders around the nation to reject the idea of applying the GST to fresh food.

President of the PHAA, Professor Heather Yeatman said that applying the GST to healthy foods will make them unaffordable to many, and will lead to further pressure on the Nation's public health system.

“Diet-sensitive chronic disease due to unhealthy eating is now the greatest factor affecting overall burden of disease in Australia, greater than tobacco… and obesity. We need incentives to eat healthy food – not disincentives," she said.

Yeatman says that since 2000, the cost of basic healthy foods has been increasing at a much faster rate than unhealthy food.

“Over the last three years the cost of fruit and vegetables rose by 8-13 percent compared to only a three percent increase in price for snacks and confectionery.  Some states are even worse off: vegetables increased in price by 24 percent in Canberra, 16 percent in Brisbane and Sydney and 11 percent in Perth. The cost of fruit went up by 19 percent in Perth, 16 percent in Canberra and 12 percent in Brisbane.  And this is without a GST on top.  In contrast, the price of junk food only increased by one-six percent in these cities over the same time period. 

WA Premier Colin Barnett last week threw his support behind the proposal to tax fruit and vegetables, stating that it was ‘silly’ not apply the GST to healthy foods.

“This is a very simplistic economic view with potentially catastrophic consequences for the most vulnerable in our society and for our health system,” said Yeatman. “Even now, some people simply cannot afford to eat a healthy diet.  Already welfare recipients in WA would need to allocate half of their disposable income to buy exclusively healthy food, while the average income earner would need to spend about 16 percent of their income.

“When funding has already been cut to many of our preventive health programs, now is not the time to add further to the burden of disease. All Australians are affected. The GST exemption for healthy foods in Australia must be retained.”


Corn dwarfed by low temperature suitable for growth in mines

A Purdue study has revealed corn-growing techniques which could be used to grow corn in controlled-environment in caves and former mines.

The study shows that lowering temperatures for two hours a day reduced the height of corn, without affecting its seed yield, reports.

This would allow genetically modified corn crops to be raised in isolated and enclosed environments, preventing pollen and seed from escaping into the ecosystem and crossing with wild plants.

Cary Mitchell, professor of horticulture, said the technique could be used to grow transgenic crops to produce medicinal products such as antibodies for the budding plant-derived industrial and pharmaceutical compounds industry.

"Grains of corn could be engineered to produce proteins that could be extracted and processed into medicine, pharmaceuticals and nutraceuticals such as essential vitamins," Mitchell said. "This is a young industry, but what we've done is show that you can successfully grow these high-value crops in contained environments."

Mitchell said that former mines could be prime locations to grow transgenic plants because their natural coolness lessens the need to ventilate the heat produced by lamps. The high levels of carbon dioxide in mines also promote plant growth.

"Productivity in a controlled environment is superior to that in the field, and you can raise more than one crop per year," Mitchell said.


Researchers use wire coils to increase sugar content in tomato juice

Researchers from the Tokyo University of Agriculture have found an effective method of increasing the sugar concentration in tomato fruit juice through the use of a new prototypic method known as "basal wire coiling".

Traditional methods have usually involved subjecting plants to salt and water stresses, however basal wire coiling appears to be a more simpler and effective method of increasing sugar concentration in tomato juice, thus increasing its marketability, Science Daily reports.

The researchers, Ken Takahata and Hiroyuki Miura, coiled bonsai wire around the stems of tomato seedlings between the cotyledon node and the first leaf node. According to Takahata and Miura, the use of basal wire coiling appeared to be less complex than other traditional methods of increasing sugar concentration.

"We investigated whether coiling wire around the lower part of the plant stems to reduce the capacity of xylem to transport water to the shoot would result in low shoot moisture conditions and increase the sugar concentration of fruit like salt and water stresses," the authors said.

"Eleven days after treatment, the stem diameters immediately above the wire coils were markedly greater in treated plants compared with the corresponding stem regions of control plants."

The researchers noted that the stems of treated plants were less elongated and developed fewer nodes at 39 and 51 days after treatment than the control plants did.

Several months after the treatment, the researchers found that fruit harvested from the treated plants were between 49 to 89 percent the weight of the fruit from the control plants. They also noted that sucrose, fructose and glucose concentrations were far higher than the control plants.

"Since basal wire coiling in this experiment markedly suppressed root growth, presumably by impeding photosynthate translocation through the phloem to the roots, we assume that water absorption was also decreased by this treatment," Takahata and Miura wrote.

"Furthermore, impeding water transport through the xylem to the upper parts of the plant by this treatment should accelerate a reduction in the moisture content of the shoot."

The study, Increasing the Sugar Concentration in Tomato Fruit Juice by Coiling Wire Around Plant Stems, was published in the American Society for Horticultural Science.


Illegal worker crackdown could lead to fruit and veg price hike

Following recent raids of illegal workers across farms in Western Australia, supplies of fruit and vegetables are starting to dwindle, leading to potential price rises across the state.

Fruit and vegetable fields in the Carabooda area north of Wanneroo are reported to have been sitting idle for days as growers struggle to find replacement workers for 190 illegal farm workers who have been taken into custody over the past week, The West reports.

"It's not just the people who have been detained – other foreigners who are allowed to work are not turning up because they are fearful and don't really know what is happening," said a leading WA wholesale who asked to remain anonymous.

The wholesaler said that crops of Asian vegetables were down by 75 percent and that other popular crops such as broccoli and lettuce were down by 30 percent. They also stressed that the shortage in produce will inevitably lead to higher prices which could be felt by consumers over the next few months.

Carabooda avocado grower and former liberal MP Mal Washer said that he has only ever employed legal workers on his farm despite illegal workers costing 2.5 times less on average.

He said that farms that have relied on illegal labour over extended periods will most probably find it difficult to stay in business.

"Your number one cost is your labour cost and if we get a rise in costs they (supermarkets) are not that keen on letting us pass it on to them," said Washer.

"We [the growers] are price takers."


China’s agricultural soil contaminated with toxic metals, AUSVEG

Peak industry body for potato and vegetable growers, AUSVEG is calling for further strengthening of Australia’s country of origin labelling laws after fresh reports have shown that almost 20 percent of China’s agricultural land is contaminated with heavy toxic metals, which can be carcinogenic and cause kidney damage.

Recent data released from the Communist Party of China has indicated that 19.4 percent, or around 1.05 million square kilometres of China’s agricultural land is contaminated with an array of toxic metals including cadmium, nickel and arsenic.

AUSVEG spokesperson, Hugh Gurney said that the findings are ‘mortifying’ especially considering that China is the second highest source of vegetable imports to Australia.

“In 2012-13, it was estimated that approximately $110 million worth of vegetables were imported to Australia from China, however, it’s highly likely that the amount of potentially harmful Chinese produce reaching Australian dinner plates is much higher than official figures suggest,” said Gurney.

“Under current trade agreements with China, New Zealand may import processed vegetables from China, repackage them as ‘Made in New Zealand from local and imported ingredients’, and ship the product to Australia for consumption.”

“…The risk associated with the consumption of Chinese produce is now indisputable. We should not allow inadequate Country of Origin Labelling requirements continue to put the health of Australian consumers at risk,” he said.

The House of Representatives Agriculture and Industry Committee recently announced that it will be conducting an inquiry into country-of-origin labelling for food. The inquiry has been referred by the Minister for Agriculture, Barnaby Joyce MP, and Minister for Industry, Ian Macfarlane MP.

The terms of reference for the inquiry:

  • Whether the current Country of Origin Labelling (CoOL for food) system provides enough information for Australian consumers to make informed purchasing decisions
  • Whether Australia's CoOL laws are being complied with and what, if any, are the practical limitations to compliance
  • Whether improvements could be made, including to simplify the current system and/or reduce the compliance burden
  • Whether Australia's CoOL laws are being circumvented by staging imports through third countries
  • The impact on Australia's international trade obligations of any proposed changes to Australia's CoOL laws.

Gurney says that AUSVEG has welcomed the inquiry, stating that it is paramount that Australian consumers are able to easily identify foreign produce.

“Australian growers follow the strictest environmental and on-farm protocols to produce some of the world’s safest vegetables. It would be shameful to continue to let ineffective Country of Origin Labelling legislation impede Australian consumers from making well-informed choices at the supermarket,” he said.


Birds Eye SteamFresh Vegetables and Cheese Sauce

Product name: Birds Eye SteamFresh Vegetables & Cheese Sauce

Product manufacturer: Simplot

Ingredients: Broccoli, Cauliflower & Carrots: Vegetables (55%0 (broccoli, cauliflower, carrots), cream (14%), water, cheese (12%) [emmental cheese (milk, salt, lactic culture, rennet) fresh cheese], skim milk powder, seasoning (contains egg), starch, garlic.

Cauliflower: Cauliflower (55%), cream (14%), water, cheese (12%) [emmental cheese (milk, salt, lactic culture, rennet), fresh cheese], skim milk powder, seasoning (contains egg), starch, garlic. 

Shelf life: 18 months

Packaging: Laminate outer bag and steam film pouch

Product manager: Kelly Wilson

What the company says:
It's hard to beat a hearty roast meal in the middle of winter and this year, Birds Eye has made it even easier to achieve with the launch of its new SteamFresh Vegetables & Cheese Sauce range.

Bringing a classic, cream cheese flavour to roast meals this season, Birds Eye is giving you the choice of both a cauliflower and a classic mix of broccoli, cauliflower and carrots option, available in stores and online now.

Brand manager for Birds Eye Frozen Vegetables, Kelly Wilson, said that the latest offering from Birds Eye is targeting those with busy lifestyles, particularly those who love cheese sauce with their veggies but don’t always have the time or desire to cook it from scratch.

“Our research has shown that the majority (58%*) of steam vegetable products sold are purchased by one to two person households, so we know that the typical ‘professional couple’ for example, are looking for simple and quick meal options that fit with their busy lifestyles,” Kelly said.

“The Birds Eye SteamFresh Vegetables & Cheese Sauce range is ideal for the time-poor consumer as it can be heated and ready to serve in just three and half minutes. It is perfect for those looking for a fast, hearty and flavoursome feast and is great paired with roast chicken, roast beef, fish or even a grilled steak.”

Birds Eye anticipate the range will also be a big hit with those who are always on the go and looking for simple, tasty and nutritious meal ideas.

Birds Eye’s new range is available now in Coles and Independent stores, and Woolworths stores from April 28th. RRP $3.99 for two individual steam pouches.


Anti-Dumping Commission makes recommendations for dumped Italian tomatoes

Peak industry group for Australian vegetable and potato growers, AUSVEG has welcomed the announcement made yesterday by Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Industry, Bob Baldwin regarding the dumping of canned tomato products from Italy.

An investigation was launched by the antidumping commission on 10 July last year in response to an application lodged by Australian fruit and vegetable processor SPC Ardmona, who alleged that Italian tomatoes were being exported to Australia from Italy at margins which constituted dumping.

SPC said that the influx in imported Italian tomatoes caused material injury to local producers and also resulted in reduced profitability and lower sales volume for the business.  

The investigation has now recommended that a dumping notice be published to a number of Italian tomato products which were found to have been dumped into the Australian market and additionally, exporters of these types of products sent to Australia since 1 November 2013 may be forced to pay a dumping duty to the Australian Government.

“The Commission found that a range of Italian tomato products have been entering the Australian market at prices which are below the cost of production for these items, and the publication of this dumping notice acknowledges this and will hopefully help to prevent further injury to the Australian tomato and vegetable processing industry, which in the past three years has been beset by a spate of factory closures,” said AUSVEG spokesperson Hugh Gurney.

“AUSVEG is calling on the Federal Government to use the dumping duty collected from these Italian exporters employing questionable tactics to support Australian vegetable and tomato growers and processors who have been injured by this predatory pricing.”

According to AUSVEG, in 2012-13, Australia imported $52 million worth of prepared or preserved tomato products, $49 million of which came from Italy.

“With 93 per cent of tomatoes imported into Australia originating in Italy, this announcement will serve to discourage those exporters who refuse to play by the rules,” said Gurney.

“The last three years have been unfortunately punctuated by the closures of Australian tomato processing factories for Heinz and Rosella, so the local industry has already borne the brunt of dumped Italian product. It is hoped that this dumping notice will allow remaining processors in Australia, like Kagome and SPC Ardmona, to continue employing hundreds of workers and Australian vegetable growers.”


Breakthrough protocol boosts exports for Yarra Valley fruit growers

Berry and cherry growers in the Yarra Valley can now export produce without fruit fly treatment to interstate markets, the first arrangement of its kind in Australia.

According to weeklytimesnow, the breakthrough protocol came into effect in January and the first fruit was sent to South Australia in February.

Accredited growers in the region can now access fruit fly sensitive markets in Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania as well as others across the country.

The Pest-Free Places of Production (PFPP) will be announced by the Victorian government today (16 April), and while the protocol applies only to domestic exports at the moment, the industry is keen to expand it to include international markets.

Development of the protocol was initiated by an incident last year which saw the Queensland fruit fly (QFF) being declared endemic in Victoria. As a result, fruit exported to QFF sensitive states had to undergo disinfestation treatment, and representatives of the fruit growing sector approached the Department of Environment and Primary Industries. The PFPP was then put together.

The Yarra Valley PFPP is funded by the Yarra Valley berry and cherry industries together with Horticulture Australia Limited, Agribusiness Yarra Valley and the Victorian government.


AUSVEG welcomes Australia – Japan FTA

Peak industry body for Australian vegetable growers, AUSVEG has welcomed the Australia – Japan free trade agreement, stating that it will see various fruit and vegetable commodities flagged for tariff elimination.

AUSVEG spokesperson, Hugh Gurney said that once the FTA is brought into effect, the current three precent tariff on a number of products will be cut.

“Australian horticulture (has) the potential for significant trade growth in Japan, so to see reduced tariffs for products like carrots, asparagus and cabbage will mean that it will be easier for Australian growers to get these products onto the shelves of Japanese supermarkets,” said Gurney.

“This agreement will further assist the Australian vegetable industry to establish trade in Asia, with market access for a greater range of vegetables the next priority for industry in order to take advantage of lower tariffs,” said Mr Gurney.

Other horticultural products such as canned tomatoes and vegetable juice have also been identified to have their tariffs reduced over a five year period.

“AUSVEG enjoys a close working relationship with Austrade and it is hoped that now the FTA has been announced, more and more Australian vegetable growers will explore the Japanese market,” said Gurney.

“Trade with Asian markets will be essential if the Australian vegetable industry is going to expand profitably, so the announcement of this FTA is welcome and represents a great opportunity for our local growers, who grow some of the best produce in the world.”

The Australian Dairy Industry Council however was not as impressed with the FTA’s outcome.

The ADIC’s deputy chairman, Robert Poole said that the agreement provide ‘no meaningful benefit’ to the Australian dairy industry, stating that the industry would only stand to gain $4.7m in the first year of the deal’s implementation, which would then rise to an estimated $11.6m by 2031.

“We are extremely disappointed with the deal announced this evening by the Prime Minister,” said Poole yesterday.

“We were hopeful Government had heeded the industry’s message in regards to freeing up market access in Japan, however it now appears our words fell upon deaf ears."


It’s time to innovate: SPC’s plan for the future [video]

Fruit processor SPC, will use the $100 million co-investment from the Victorian government and its owner, Coca-Cola Amatil, to make productivity and efficiency gains, and innovate in-line with consumer demands.

Food magazine recently sat down with Bronwyn Powell, marketing and innovation director at SPC, who spoke about a number of challenges the brand has faced in recent times, and the progress they’ve made in keeping it afloat.

She said SPC has been a leading force in the recent anti-dumping legislation, adding that cheap imported produce, specifically tomatoes, have made competing in the local market a significant challenge.

While SPC’s struggles have been well publicised (read more here, here and here), the $100 million co-investment is expected to go a long way for the company. Powell said the money will be put to good use, and will fund innovation including a move away from canned products, in response to consumer demands.

You can hear more about what SPC’s got planned in the video interview below.



RAUCH juice

Product name: RAUCH

Product manufacturer: Rauch Group

Ingredients: (RAUCH ACE juice ingredients) Minimum 30% Orange, Carrot, Lemon Juice, citric acid, aroma, Vitamins (C, E) and provitamin A.

Shelf life: The estimated shelf life for Rauch is from 8 to 11 months depending on the flavour and production date. However, when opened the juice opened / seal broken – it' like any perishable product.

Packaging: 200 ml glass bottle OR 1L Tetra pack

Product manager: Bruno Fine Foods & Distribution

Brand website:

What the company says
RAUCH has recently launched 200ml glass range of premium juice and nectars in the Australian market. A majority of the juices are 100 percent fruit with no added sugar, RAUCH aims to offer as many varieties as possible. Every RAUCH bottle with a 100 percent seal indicates that there is 100 percent fruit in the bottle, nothing else.

RAUCH juice is currently available in Pineapple, Apple, Orange, ACE (orange, carrot and lemon), Strawberry and Tomato. The nectar variety includes Apricot, Pear and Peach. The refreshing taste of RAUCH will satisfy fruity cravings and serves as the perfect base for both mocktails and cocktails.

RAUCH offers a family of beverages, the fruits are picked at their most vital stage ensuring that the juices are packed with vitamins and mineral nutrients. Founded in 1919, RAUCH is an Austrian family business and one of the leading juice companies in Europe, satisfying the thirst for fruit in over 100 countries. The success of RAUCH relies on extensive quality control, respecting the most important asset – the fruit. RAUCH is one of the few enterprises that carry out the entire processing from the fruit to the packaging, which positions them as global leaders in the competitive fruit juice industry.

From nature, for people – RAUCH products stand for healthy enjoyment and refreshment. RAUCH 200ml glass juices and nectars is available selected cafes and retail outlets.


WA food collective targets Singapore market

The Southern Forests Food Council, (SFFC) a marketing collective based in the Shire of Manjimup, Western Australia is targeting Singapore as a key market to export its premium quality produce.

The collective consists of hundreds of food producers from a number of WA regions, 45 of which have already been approved to use the ‘Genuinely Southern Forests’ label which was launched four months ago, and covers a wide variety of fresh produce including truffles, avocadoes and potatoes, The West Australian reports.

The group is capitalising on the state’s reputation for clean and green food production, as well as the diverse array of produce that is available from the Manjimup, Pemberton Walpole and Northcliff regions.

Chief executive of the collective, Allen Burtenshaw said that the group is well positioned to capitalise on the growing interest – both domestically and internationally – of where food is sourced and how it is grown.

"From a food perspective, people want to know where it comes from, how safe is it and is it good for my family and kids," Burtenshaw told The West Australian.

"Day by day, the importance of that link between the producer and the market is growing.

"This region is pristine in air, soil and water so it is in a great position. It is pretty much untouchable and its isolation is its benefit."

The SFFC has been concentrating on the domestic market up until recently, and will now be looking to target niche markets in South East Asia, starting with Singapore.

Members will be showcasing their products using a ‘best-when-in-season’ supply model at Singapore’s leading trade exhibition next month.


24 Hours with SPC Ardmona

Bronwyn Powell, Marketing and Innovation Director at Australian fruit and vegetable processor, SPC Ardmona runs us through a day in the life of a food manufacturing professional. 

  1. What are your primary roles and responsibilities in your job?  Give us a day in your working life.

No one day is the same!

Anything from discussing the strategy and execution of SPC Ardmona’s Marketing and Innovation plan, to developing new product concepts with the marketing team and R&D teams, to launching new advertising campaigns with one of our great external agencies.  

I am also a director on the company’s Executive Leadership team so everyday involves transforming the business across all facets to be a world class consumer led organisation.

  1. What training/education did you need for your job?

Bachelor of Commerce with a Marketing major from University of NSW

On job experience over 20+ years in Australia, USA, Europe, Internationally. I have lived in 4 countries and also worked across North America, Australia, Europe, Asia and South America.

  1. How did you get to where you are today?  Give us a bullet point career path.


  • Assistant Brand Manager
  • Brand Manager
  • Senior Brand Manager
  • Marketing Manager
  • Marketing Director
  • Global Marketing Director
  • Chief Marketing Officer
  • Marketing and Innovation Director

It is a classic blue chip global FMCG and QSR ladder I have to say. I have not deviated into agencies but instead stayed client side driving business growth through a number of organisations.

  1. What tools and/or software do you use on a daily basis?

My IPad and IPhone….inseparable! 

Twitter, Facebook – Pulse on Brands. 

 Reports on trends in market, shares and insights reports.

  1. What is the one thing that you are most proud of in your professional life?
  • Starting at SPC Ardmona with a small team of dedicated marketers and food technologists.  Our whole team is so dedicated to us succeeding, now having consumers who love our brands and products and openly telling us on social media at #SPCSunday and SPCAustralia. They are life time disciples.
  • Achieving Global Marketing Director position leading strategy for KFC across 100 countries- living in the USA in the Deep South in Dallas Texas was an enormous life experience I have to say! Taught me allot about cultural differences around the world and how to market with that not against it.
  1. Biggest daily challenge?

Getting to the heart of the consumer insight… digging deeper and deeper for the killer insight and not stopping.

Time is always against us to get to market fast and to keep up with the ever changing consumer- so we need to be ahead on how they think, feel and behave.

  1. Biggest career challenge?

Category Barriers – over coming category barriers to packaged fruit.  Consumers see SPC as fruit in syrup when most of our products are in juice.  Goulburn Valley fruit is only currently in fruit juice and we will be launching it in coconut water in June this year further breaking down the barriers of our category. 

I have had category barriers before working for in fast food for KFC, Pizza Hut and McDonald’s so it does not faze me, but rather drives me to find a way to break down this wall between our product and consumers perceptions.

  1. What is your biggest frustration in your job?

So much to do and not enough time to do it!

Agricultural based business lead times. Fruit has to grow and we rely on Mother Nature to do her work. We can’t speed it up.

  1. What is the biggest challenge facing your business?

Transformation through brands and innovation.

  1. Is there anything else about your job you want Australia to know about?

I ask every Australian “have you looked at the back of all packs…turn them around and look for the country of origin.  Fruit and Vegetables need to stay being grown in Australia.  We owe it to our children to keep our food supply clean, green, wholesome and Australian grown and made.

If you would like to take part in Food mag's Industry Map, click here.

To read another Industry Map Q&A, click here.



NASAA secures trade access deal with China

NASAA (National Association for Sustainable Agriculture, Australia) has secured approval from Chinese regulators for its certification arm, NASAA Certified Organic, to inspect organic operations within Australia for export to China.

According to NASAA, the deal has the capacity to boost Australia’s organic and biodynamic industry by up to $100m per year, and marks the first time that a foreign organisation has been approved to inspect organic products for export to China, as well as to inspect and certify Chinese organic operators to USDA NOP and Japanese Agricultural Standards in China.

Beb Copeman, NASAA General Manager said that the deal was the most significant initiative to be released into the Australian organic market in 30 years.

“It will save Australian operators thousands of dollars and months of paperwork in exporting their organic products to China. NASAA trained and CHC (Beijing WuYue HuaXia Management and Technique Center) approved inspectors in Australia will audit certified operators; write the various reports and our Chinese based partners assess and approve the application,” said Copeman.

“This will allow Australian organic products access to the highly regulated Chinese organic market with the same ease and cost structure as access to the American, Japanese or European organic markets.  

“This means a considerable reduction in cost, time, and red tape,” he said.    

Copeman says that as global demand for organics continues to rise, Australian producers are well positioned to capitalise on China’s rising middle class due to our clean and green reputation.

“One NASAA certified operator has increased their turnover from $20 million to $40 million in just one year, and many other smaller operators have doubled their turnover, due to access to China…

“China’s demand for Australia’s organic produce will continue to grow as long as China’s affluent middle classes continue to grow” he said.