Mandatory labelling for lupin starts soon

Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) is reminding food businesses that mandatory allergen labelling requirements for lupin begin on 26 May 2018.

FSANZ CEO Mark Booth said lupin is a legume which belongs to the same plant family as peanuts, and has the potential to be an allergen.

“In Australia, lupin has not typically been used in food, however, due to its high protein and fibre content we are seeing an increase in its use,”  Booth said.

“In 2017, lupin was added to the list of allergens that must be declared on food labels. Food businesses were given 12 months to meet these requirements.

“Any foods that contain lupin must declare it on the label from 26 May 2018 – even if it’s already on the shelf.

“Correct allergen labelling can mean the difference between life and death for people with food allergies so it is vital that food businesses get it right.

“Even if the food is not in a package (for example, food prepared at and sold from a takeaway shop), allergen information must be displayed in connection with the food or provided to the purchaser if requested.”

2018 budget cautiously welcomed by SME exporters

Last night’s Federal Budget contained some, but not a lot of, good news for SME exporters, according to a leading export-focused industry body.

“Overall, this is positive budget for SME exporters,” said Heath Baker, head of policy at the Export Council of Australia (ECA). “But it’s an incremental step forward, not a major leap.”

“The government has rightly been a champion of trade and has trumpeted its achievements in signing FTAs,” said Baker. “But if you want to grow trade, FTAs are only part of the answer. This budget goes some way to addressing SME exporters’ other needs—but there’s still more to be done.”

The ECA welcomes the $20 million allocated to establish an SME export hubs program, as well as extending funding for the export growth centres. These programs should help many SMEs make the jump into international business and we look forward to seeing the detail.

DFAT’s economic diplomacy efforts receive a valuable injection of $15 million. This will go towards expanding FTA outreach, helping businesses better access DFAT’s economic and security insights, as well as developing a strategy to address the ‘non-tariff measures’ that stop businesses from exporting. Austrade has received a small boost, including $3.2 million to develop a new national brand. Future budgets will need to commit significant money to implementing this brand if it has any chance of succeeding.

Australia’s offshore agricultural counsellors play an essential role in facilitating trade in food and agriculture—adding six new counsellors is a wise investment. We also welcome additional funding for initiatives to increase agricultural access in key markets.

Getting goods out of Australia should become a little easier with additional infrastructure spending, including the $400 million Port Botany line duplication. There’s also a $10.5 million commitment to complete a business case for a ‘single window’ for international trade—but this is slow progress given that implementing a single window was a 2016 election commitment.

Aviation security will tighten, which could complicate exporters’ supply chains. While exporters accept the need to ensure aviation safety, these measures need to be implemented in a business-friendly way, and supply chain participants will need adequate time to adjust.

On the down-side, the Export Market Development Grant is still underfunded. This blunts some of the good measures in place to grow exports, as new exporters will only be able to fully realise international opportunities if they invest in building their brands overseas. Underfunding EMDG means they will lack the certainty and confidence to fully commit to building their brands.

Impact of non-tariff barriers on grains exports exposed

The Government is working with the grain industry to address non-tariff barriers to Australia’s grain exports trade, to reduce costs and increase market access for our grain growers.

Non-tariff barriers or non-tariff measures can include quotas on the amount of a commodity which can be exported to a certain country, difficult or expensive testing or complicated labelling.

Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources David Littleproud today welcomed the release of the government funded Grains non-tariff measures report led by Grain Trade Australia, GrainGrowers and the Grain Industry Market Access Forum, and said he was looking at ways to boost Australia’s tackling of these issues.

“Our grains industry is big business, with 75 per cent of Australia’s grain exported, creating $14.6 billion in export revenue in 2016-17,” Minister Littleproud said.

“With the successful reduction of tariffs under free trade agreements, we now need to work on reducing barriers besides tariffs.

“I’m looking at ways to give our 16 agricultural counsellors overseas more grunt as they deal with these issues every day.

“While many non-tariff measures are in place to meet legitimate biosecurity, food safety and consumer information requirements, they can also restrict trade and increase costs.

“Not only do these measures vary across the different commodities, but they range from complicated technical barriers to trade like testing and labelling requirements through to import quota restrictions, import licensing systems and complex sanitary and phytosanitary measures like maximum residue limits.

“We want our farmers to have the best chance to get the best price for their high quality produce, bringing more money back through the farmgate to keep our regional communities strong.

“We are committed to working with producers, exporters and importing countries to ensure the trading system is fair and transparent, and will work with industry on their priorities following this report.”

The grains industry will now discuss the full report, before seeking to meet with the Government about the industry’s key strategic trade measure priorities moving forward. ​

Budget to see craft beer tax cut

Craft brewers and distillers will no longer pay additional tax, allowing them to compete on fairer terms with large beverage companies.

Treasure Scott Morrison said in a statement that the Turnbull Government will increase the amount beverage companies can claim back on their excise and extend the concessional draught beer excise rate to smaller kegs, typically used by craft brewers.

The alcohol excise refund scheme cap will increase from $30,000 a year to $100,000, from 1 July 2019 for all brewers and distillers.

This additional tax relief, on top of the Government’s legislated tax cuts for small and medium businesses, will allow craft brewers and distillers to compete on fairer terms with large beverage companies.

Currently, draught beer sold in kegs exceeding 48 litres is taxed at lower rates compared with beer sold in smaller kegs. This is unfair for smaller brewery businesses. Extending the concessional draught beer excise rates to kegs of 8 litres or more will level the playing field for craft brewers, which typically use smaller sized kegs, to distribute their beer to pubs, clubs and restaurants.

There are around 380 craft brewers in Australia located across each State and Territory, employing the equivalent of almost 2,400 people. These brewers are predominantly small businesses and could benefit both from the increase to the excise refund cap and extended access to the concessional draught beer excise rate.

There are also over 100 domestic distillers, supporting around 1,600 jobs that could benefit from the changes.

Reborn TPP good news for Australian wine and cheese makers

The Trans Pacific Partnership has been reborn as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership. Matthew McDonald examines the new agreement and what it means for our food and beverage industry.

The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), which originally was to include 12 Pacific nations, seemed dead in the water early last year when the then newly elected President Donald Trump declared that the US would not be involved in the deal.

However, at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland in January, the 11 remaining nations –  Japan, Canada, Australia, Mexico, Malaysia, Singapore, Chile, Peru, Vietnam, New Zealand and Brunei – agreed to a new deal known as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).

Then in March, all parties signed the deal (which is also being called TPP-11). Broadly, it cuts tariffs and puts in place common laws and regulations. It is a framework under which separate 18 new bilateral deals between participating countries will sit. Australia, for example, has made new deals with Canada and Mexico.

What’s in it for Australia

From an Australian perspective, farmers and the service sector are the big winners.

In terms of agriculture, our beef exports to Japan (which were worth $2 billion in 2016-17) will be boosted by tariff reductions; and there will be new access for dairy products into Japan, Canada and Mexico.

In addition, Australia will have new access into the Japanese, Canadian and Mexican sugar markets; and there will be an elimination of all tariffs on sheep meat, as well as an elimination of many tariffs on seafood and horticulture.

Also, our cereals and grain exporters will gain new access into Japan. Significantly, for the first time in 20 years, this will include rice products.

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However, agriculture isn’t the only winner. The CPTPP will eliminate more than 98 per cent of tariffs in the free trade area. Australian cheese makers, for example, can look forward to the scrapping of a range of tariffs into Japan which currently cover over $100 million of trade.

Also, Australian wine makers, who were already on a high following the recent release of record-breaking export figures for 2017, will further benefit from the news that the CPTPP will see the elimination of tariffs on wine. CEO of Wine Australia, Andreas Clark told Food & Beverage Industry News that the two core benefits for the sector are reduced tariffs and a specific annex for wine and spirits.

“The annex is an exciting part of the partnership as it provides an opportunity to remove a range of technical barriers that can impact our exports. All the parties involved in the CPTPP have agreed on a cooperative framework to remove some of these barriers, which will help streamline trade,” he said.

“The Australian grape and wine community has seen many benefits from our existing free trade agreements with the USA, Japan, Korea and China – among many others – and the CPTPP may allow additional benefits to flow back to grape and wine businesses across the country.”

Clark’s positive reaction was echoed across Australian industry.

“The deal covers 11 nations that together constitute around 30 per cent of the global economy, and four of Australia’s top 10 export markets for food and beverages. The economic weight of the TPP and common set of rules established among 11 countries will greatly support Australian food exporters, providing Australian jobs and economic growth,” said Australian Food & Grocery Council (AFGC) CEO Tanya Barden.

She pointed out that the deal will result in greater alignment and harmonisation across the region on regulation and behind-the-border trade issues and added that this is particularly relevant to the food industry, which generally face onerous import controls that differ from one nation to another.

“The parliamentary process for reviewing international trade agreements will provide an opportunity to review the TPP agreement in great detail. At the forefront of that review must be the promotion of jobs, investment and growth for Australia’s economic prosperity,” said Barden.

What are the negatives?

While the Opposition has been mostly positive about the deal, sections of the Labor Party claim some Australian workers could suffer as a result of the CPTPP. They say the establishment of labour market testing for any foreign workers are crucial. Opposition leader Bill Shorten has called for the Productivity Commission to conduct an independent analysis of the deal first. He said that if modelling shows the deal is good for the nation and Australian jobs, Labor would back it.

One important feature of trade deals not often noted by the lay person is the fact that they aren’t all about free trade. They are also investor rights agreements. As such, the deal includes an investor-statement-dispute-settlement mechanism (ISDS). This has raised fears that, as the result of the CPTPP, corporations could sue the Australian Government if Australian laws adversely affect their performance. Many point to Philip Morris suing the Australian Government for introducing plain cigarette packaging as an example of what could happen.

Trade Minister Steve Ciobo responded to the fears by saying Australia will retain the right to make its own legislation and that the fears were unfounded.

ACCC calls for regulatory reform to assist dairy farmers

The ACCC has released the final report arising from its dairy inquiry, which includes the key recommendation that a mandatory code of conduct be implemented to improve contracting practices between dairy processors and farmers.

The inquiry was initiated by Treasurer Scott Morrison, in response to large and retrospective reductions in milk prices imposed by two major dairy processors in April 2016. The inquiry involved extensive investigations, consultation and data analysis over a period of 18 months.

“A mandatory code of conduct would address problems arising from the large imbalance in bargaining power and information that exists between dairy farmers and processors,” ACCC Commissioner Mick Keogh said.

“Currently, processors can impose milk prices and other terms of milk supply contract terms that are heavily weighted in their favour. Some milk supply contracts also contain terms that restrict farmers’ ability to change processors for a better offer.”

“These issues ultimately harm dairy production efficiency and reduce the effectiveness of competition between processors,” Mr Keogh said.

The ACCC explored ways to address these concerns and found the existing provisions of the Competition and Consumer Act (2010), the dairy industry’s voluntary code of conduct, or a prescribed voluntary code would be inadequate.

“A mandatory code would improve the quality of information and price signals available to dairy farmers, enable fairer allocation of risk and enhance competition by removing switching barriers. While introducing a code won’t fully correct the bargaining power imbalance, it will reduce some of the negative consequences,” Mr Keogh said.

The inquiry also analysed the impact on the dairy industry of $1 per litre milk, first introduced by major retailer in 2011.

“Dairy farmers are understandably frustrated the retail price of milk has declined in real terms, since retailers adopted their milk pricing policies. The price set by retailers is arbitrary and has no direct relationship to the cost of production for the supply of milk,” Mr Keogh said.

“In examining the impact of this on farmgate prices, however, the ACCC found almost all contracts for the supply of private label milk allows processors to pass through movements in farmgate prices to supermarkets. Therefore, there is no direct relationship between retail private label milk prices and farmgate prices.”

“Therefore, if supermarkets agreed to increase the price of milk and processors received higher wholesale prices, processors would still not pay farmers any more than they have to secure milk,” Mr Keogh said.

“Given this, the ACCC believes that increases in the supermarket price of private label milk are unlikely to increase the farmgate prices received by farmers, unless farmers have improved bargaining power in their negotiations with processors.”

The ACCC also recommends increased transparency in milk price offers made by processors to farmers, and the removal of barriers to farmer’s switching, such as delayed loyalty payments and extended notice periods.

12 tips for accessing government grants to transform your business

Now more than ever, manufacturing and industrial operators could be taking advantage of underutilised government grants. Here’s how.

Although manufacturing and industrial operators have access to millions-of-dollars in government grants per year, it remains an underutilized resource. People tend to think the grant process is too difficult.

Grants are being awarded for energy & renewables, industry 4.0, business optimisation, innovation, prototype/pilots, advanced manufacturing and business diversification.

And they’re a great way to co-fund transformation, particularly if has wider benefit to community such as the environment, sustainability, employment, or increasing exports.

Now, more than ever, manufacturing and industrial operators should be taking advantage of them.

SAGE Automation has built up some experience in grants over the years. Here are their tips for completing successful grant applications:

Tip #1 – Be prepared to act quickly when a grant opens

Grants come and go very quickly – so be prepared to submit within a short timeframe.

To avoid missing out keep your eye out for new grants, set up google alerts, talk to your networks, and ask grant coordinators to keep you in the loop. Get your grant search started here.

 Tip #2 – Take the time to understand how the grant works

Grants can seem daunting at first but while they are often easier than you think, you do need to really understand how they’re structured.

Important note: Grants aren’t cash handouts!

A common mistake people make is in thinking they can choose where and how they spend grant money.

Many grants exist to give business affordable access to specialist consultants or connecting you with publically funded research organisations. This means partnering with that outside organisation.

So leave preconceived ideas at the door and focus on understanding the grants’ purpose.

Tip #3 – Absolutely 110% fit the eligibility criteria

Every grant will have basic eligibility criteria that you need to qualify for. This can be based on company size, years in business, revenue, type of business, and/or regional requirements. If you don’t fit these 100 percent, don’t waste your time submitting a grant. Instead, call the grant coordinator or administrator.

Tip #4 – Call the grant administrator before you put any effort in

There are two great benefits here:

1) it’s a great networking opportunity, and

2) they’ll tell you straight up if you’re the right fit. Plus they might provide you with some great tips for a successful application, such as examples of previous winning applications!

In short you’ll save a lot of wasted time and energy.

Tip #5 – Don’t hang everything on grant success

Be careful about making a grant the centre of your commercial proposal for a customer. Don’t expose yourself to a situation where if you don’t get the grant you still need to do the project but haven’t got the budget.

Tip #6 – Consider getting outside help to write your grant

Don’t be frightened to collaborate with the research or service provider that you want to work with on the project. They’ll often have experience in this domain. For example, both SAGE and Nukon can help a customer write a grant application.

Tip #7 – Draft it in Word

Most grants require final answers to be submitted via a web form or editable PDF. To reduce the chances of losing your work and introducing errors, draft the application in a word document and copy and paste when you’re ready to submit.

Tip #8 – Keep answers to-the-point

Make sure you address every point in the question. A good rule of thumb is to keep answers as short as possible and long as they need to be. Don’t be frightened you’re repeating yourself across different questions.

Resist the urge to answer using a long winded business story or personal circumstance. The person who is assessing your application will be trying to quantify your answers with how they align to the assessment criteria.

If you have special circumstances, talk directly with the grant administrator on the phone.

Tip #9 – Align your submission with grant providers strategic priorities

Align every answer with a strategic priority of the grant provider. Government grants are designed to support the delivery of their strategic priorities, so if your idea or concept doesn’t fit, you may be best to keep looking for one that does.

Tip #10 – Submit by the deadline & confirm your submission

Grant providers are strict on deadlines. Aim to have your draft completed well before the deadline.

Once you’ve submitted, ring the grant administrator (who should know you by now) to make sure they got your submission.  Ensure you also get confirmation in writing.

Tip #11 – Set a diary date for when you’re meant to hear back

Don’t be afraid to ring the administrator to follow up.

Tip #12 – When you get the grant, follow the reporting, timelines and rules

If you don’t spend the grant money correctly or on time, they can (and do!) take the money back – even after it’s been spent. If your circumstances change and you can no longer fulfil the grant, you can give the money back.

Make sure you submit the key milestone reporting. It’s not too onerous, but they will want the updates.

Final advice:

  • Never assume that you can’t get the grant. Grants are an untapped resource.
  • Don’t discount yourself for being too small or too large – there are grants out there for every business size and stage.
  • Keep an open mind. Many grants require you work collaboratively with research or other industry – the new perspective and specialised knowledge you can gain is invaluable if you’re willing to work with it.

Read how SAGE has worked on process optimisation projects with Udder Delights and Spring Gully – all through government grants. If you need assistance with energy, advanced manufacturing, process optimisation or digitisation related grants, get in touch at gotoSAGE.com.

Fight Food Waste CRC established

A new Cooperative Research Centre (CRC), supported by a $30 million grant from the Turnbull Government’s CRC Program, has been established.

The Fight Food Waste CRC will support industry-led collaborations between researchers, industry and the community to address the issue of food waste and help the Government to fulfil its National Food Waste Strategy commitment to halve food waste in Australia.

CRCs link industry expertise with our world-class research capability and generate new knowledge, solve problems and offer opportunities to commercialise new ideas.

Minister for Jobs and Innovation, Michaelia Cash welcomed the funding for the new CRC and said it had great potential to deliver economic and social benefits to Australians.

“As the Australian Government’s longest-running grant program, the CRC Program is at the heart of our efforts to bring researchers and industry together to focus on solving industry-related problems,” Minister Cash said.

Assistant Minister for Science, Job and Innovation, Zed Seselja said the CRC Program had a proven track record in delivering tangible benefits for industry and the community.

“The CRC Program continues to be central to the Coalition Government’s commitment to improving the competitiveness, productivity and sustainability of Australian industries.

“This funding will be used to identify opportunities and solutions to reduce food wastage from paddock to plate,” Assistant Minister Seselja said.

Applications for the next CRC grant selection round are expected to open in May 2018.

Wine Australia gets broader powers to protect the nation’s wine reputation

New regulations, effective this week, give the nation’s wine export regulator Wine Australia broader powers to protect the reputation of the country’s wine exports.

Wine Australia Chief Executive Officer Andreas Clark said that the new regulations included a number of changes, the most important being the capacity to assess whether an exporter was ‘fit and proper person’.

‘Australia’s wine exports continue to climb and our reputation for delivering on quality is a very important part of that growth’, Mr Clark said.

‘These new regulations will extend Wine Australia’s power to do more to protect Australian wine’s reputation overseas by ensuring the bona fides of potential and existing exporters.

‘Unfortunately, it’s a fact of life that copycats and counterfeiters can move in when they can leverage somebody else’s good reputation to make a buck – left unchecked the damage accrues not just to an individual brand but to the reputation of the nation targeted and its other brands’, Mr Clark said.

Wine cannot be exported from Australia without approval from Wine Australia and Mr Clark said that the new regulations gave Wine Australia the authority to deny the approval of shipments where a product could not be lawfully sold in the country to which it would be exported. This could include preventing the export of a wine from Australia that infringed intellectual property-related laws in the destination country.

Additionally, exporters will no longer be able to export on behalf of companies or individuals that are not themselves eligible to hold an export licence (such as where a licence has been cancelled).

Other aspects of the regulations will be liberalised. For example, to cut red tape for exporters there will no longer be a prohibition on placing a vintage indication on innovative wine products such as flavoured wines.

The regulations have also been modified to allow the continued use of grape varieties that are also geographical indications.

Sixth person dies as result of listeria linked to rockmelon

A NSW woman in her 90s with significant underlying health conditions has died from listeriosis, taking the number of deaths linked to contaminated rockmelon to six – three people from NSW and three from Victoria.

The total number of people affected nationwide remains at 19.

Dr Vicky Sheppeard, Director Communicable Diseases NSW Health said the woman had developed listeriosis before the outbreak was identified.

“There have been no new cases notified associated with the outbreak in NSW since 19 February when it was first identified,” Dr Sheppeard said.

“It is still possible that more cases will be linked to the outbreak given the incubation period for the disease is up to 70 days, however there is no ongoing risk of listeriosis from rockmelons now on sale.

“It is important to know that people fall ill with listeriosis every year but most of the cases are never related to an outbreak like we are seeing. Sadly, up to one third of those who do contract the disease will die.”

Listeria is found widely in the environment and rarely causes serious illness in the general population but for vulnerable people, such as those who are over 70, pregnant, or have diabetes or suppressed immune systems, it can be extremely serious or even life threatening.

NSW Health was first notified on 19 February of possible links between two NSW listeriosis patients and a Victorian patient, which indicated there could be an outbreak. NSW Health and the NSW Food Authority acted immediately to examine those cases and find the source of the infection.

Once the investigation identified the source of the infection – rockmelons from a single farm – these rockmelons were immediately recalled from market.

“People at risk of listeriosis should always take care with handling and storage of food, including not purchasing pre-cut melons, salads, bagged lettuce, deli meats, raw seafood and sprouted seeds,” Dr Sheppeard said.

Guidelines for wine tourism grants now available

The Australian Government has released the guidelines for the $10 million Wine Tourism and Cellar Door Grant program, before applications open on 1 July 2019.

Eligible wine producers will be able to optimise visitors’ experiences at their cellar doors with an annual grant of up to $100,000, aimed at boosting the wine and tourism sectors.

The funding opportunity comes in addition to the $10 million of International Wine Tourism State and Competitive Grants, which were made available through the $50 million Export and Regional Wine Support Package (the $50m Package) and closed on 2 March 2018.

Total funding under the cellar door grant program will be capped at $10 million each financial year.

Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources Anne Ruston said, “this program recognises the huge investments that wine businesses make in local communities and the value they add in attracting international tourists.

“With the growing demand for outstanding food and wine as part of the travel experience, it’s important that our wine regions maintain their competitive edge,” she said.

Wine Australia Chief Executive Officer Andreas Clark said “the efforts to boost our international wine tourism experiences are great for our regions.

“Research by Wine Intelligence indicates a shift among winery visitors from only tasting wines to wanting to participate in an overall experience.

“Between the $50m Package activities and the cellar door grants program, we’ll be seeing some exciting wine tourism initiatives rolled out over the next few years as regions maintain their competitive edge.”

 

The cellar door grant is part of a coordinated suite of measures developed with the Australian wine sector after extensive consultation on reforms to the Wine Equalisation Tax (WET) rebate arrangements. It complements the components of the $50 million Export and Regional Wine Support Package, which are being delivered from 2017–18 to 2019–20.

New TPP, minus US, signed in Chile

Australia and 10 other nations signed the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership in Santiago on Thursday.

The deal, also known as TPP-11, is the reborn version of the Trans Pacific Partnership which collapsed last year after the US pulled out of the deal. The US is conspicuous as the only one of 12 nations involved in the original deal to not sign the new deal.

The other 10 nations apart from Australia to sign the deal are Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Mexico, Chile, Peru, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Singapore.

“The Agreement is one of the most comprehensive trade deals ever concluded and will eliminate more than 98 per cent of tariffs in a trade zone with a combined GDP worth $13.7 trillion,” Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, Steven Ciobo (pictured) said in a statement.

“Australian farmers, manufacturers, service providers, small businesses and all exporters are the big winners as they will be able to sell more of their goods and services in a free trade area that spans the Americas and Asia.”

Highlights of the TPP-11 include new reductions in Japan’s tariffs on fresh, chilled and frozen beef, (Australian exports worth $2.1 billion in 2016-17); new access for dairy products into Japan, Canada and Mexico, including the elimination of a range of cheese tariffs into Japan covering over $100 million of trade; and new sugar access into the Japanese, Canadian and Mexican markets.

 

Sustainable palm oil: A complex issue

With new labelling choices launched recently in Australia to certify products that are palm oil free, opinions differ on the best way to deal with the complex issue.

The story of palm oil and its supply is a complex one, sometimes pitting environmentalists against economists, and at times against each other. Many of the facts are simple and undeniable. Palm oil appears in many products on supermarket shelves, ranging from foods such as margarine, chocolate and ice cream to soaps and cosmetics. It is also used in fuels for vehicles and power plants.

The problem is, as The State of the World’s Forests 2016 (a report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United nations) points out, some palm oil plantations contribute to deforestation. This, in turn, leads to a loss of habitat for animals, including the orangutan which has become a poster child for organisations seeking to increase consumer awareness around the issue.

Many in the food manufacturing industry have started to address the problem. For example, US agribusiness giant Cargill suspended business with a Guatemalan producer in December over breaches of the firm’s sustainable palm oil policy, and countries such as Malaysia are introducing their own certification processes.

A 2013 report commissioned by WWF-Australia and the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC), Palm Oil in Australia Facts, Issues and Challenges, states that “the plight of the orangutan has led to public engagement on the production and use of palm oil”.

However, it continues: “Palm oil provides opportunities to support economic and social development in some of the poorest areas in the world.”

With all this in mind, we looked at some of the groups addressing the complicated and often controversial issue.

Orangutan Alliance

The Melbourne-based Orangutan Alliance was launched in early 2017 and instituted its International No Palm Oil Certification Program later in the year. Its trademark is pending by IP Australia.

Founder and chairperson Maria Abadilla said the organisation was established to support conservation projects, and does that through its Palm Oil Free Certification and grants.

Existing legislation in Australia or New Zealand does not require transparency in labelling, she said, and even when it does appear on an ingredients list, there are more than 200 alternative names for palm oil.

“People need to know that, to be able to see the saturated fats, whether palm oil is present if that’s what they’re looking for, but also for their choice,” she said.

Palm oil is a complex issue, but an ecological emergency, Abadilla said.

“The solution will need to come from different groups from new technology, policy change to reforestation,” she said. “Orangutan Alliance is here to provide consumer choice particularly in the absence of clear labelling in some countries.”

Palm Oil Free Certification Accreditation Program 

Bev Luff, spokeswoman for the Palm Oil Free Certification Accreditation Program (POFCAP), said the POFCAP Trademark was approved by IP Australia and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission in November 2016, and the program launched last year to coincide with International Orangutan Day on August 19.

The certification was also approved last year by the Intellectual Property Office of the United Kingdom, the Spanish Patent and Trademark Office and the Austrian Patent Office, she said. Applications are pending in a further 11 countries.

Luff said while POFCAP supports the idea of “non-conflict palm oil”,
as POFCAP refers to sustainable production, only 17 per cent of all palm oil is currently certified as such.

Many organisations had worked hard to discourage deforestation and educate the public and industries of the issues surrounding palm oil production, she said, but the rate
of deforestation continues to be alarming.

“There are also people who avoid palm oil for health reasons – they may or may not care about the environmental issues surrounding its production but they care what they put in their bodies and in their homes,” said Luff.

Luff said POFCAP was not an educational, conservation or political program. “POFCAP purely exists to certify if a product is 100 per cent palm oil free,” she said.

Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil

The inaugural meeting of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil was held in Malaysia in 2003.

The not-for-profit unites stakeholders from all sectors of the palm oil industry – oil palm producers, processors or traders, consumer goods manufacturers, retailers, banks/investors, and environmental and social non-governmental organisations (NGOs) – to develop and implement global standards for sustainable palm oil.

The RSPO has developed a set of environmental and social criteria which companies must comply with in order to produce Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO).

The organisation not only certifies palm oil as sustainable, but oversees the trade in RSPO Credits, which promote the production of certified palm oil. Working in a similar manner to carbon offsets, an RSPO credit is proof that one tonne of certified palm oil was produced by an RSPO- certified company or independent producer, and has entered the palm oil supply chain.

The RSPO has more than 3,000 members worldwide who represent all links along the palm oil supply chain.

They have committed to produce, source and/or use sustainable palm oil certified by the RSPO.

WWF

Josh Bishop, head of Sustainable Food for WWF-Australia, agrees that one of the most significant threats to the world’s biodiversity, mainly because the plantations displace tropical rainforests that are the habitat for many endangered species.

WWF looks for ways to reconcile the need for food, including palm oil, with the conservation of ecosystems and wildlife, he said.

“Our interest in palm oil is partly to document and confront the threat but also to try and find practical solutions that are economically feasible and help us feed humanity without destroying the planet.”

Part of the solution is having agreed land use plans agreed to by all stakeholders, including the industry and rural communities, he said.

Palm oil is used in the production of everything from margarine, chocolate and ice cream to soaps and cosmetics.
Palm oil.

 

“And then, in those areas where food production is agreed to be the best use of the land, try to ensure that the production practices are as responsible as possible, which means minimising impact on wildlife but also minimising impact on the climate, on water resources, and any adverse impacts on rural communities.”

WWF helped establish the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, and argues it is possible to achieve “good” palm oil. WWF recognises the importance of palm oil to the economies of many developing countries, and that its production is a much more efficient use of land than that of canola oil or soy oil, Bishop said.

About 20 per cent of global palm oil production is certified, but he acknowledged the provenance of the remaining 80 per cent is problematic.

“It is definitely a problem,” he said, “but there is a practical solution that is available, it’s not terrifically expensive, and there’s no reason why companies can’t switch to sustainable palm oil, including physical supplies of palm oil. It is available in Australia for those who want it.”

AFGC

James Mathews director of ommunications for the AFGC, said palm oil is a fundamental ingredient in some products in the supply chain and there is a lot of consumer misunderstanding about the issue.

“The industry takes information to its consumers seriously, and this is a huge ecological issue of which many companies have invested significantly in sustainable palm oil supply and certified palm oil supply,” he said.

“We are aware that while there is an ecological issue, there’s also the fact that many communities rely on palm oil for their economic lifeblood.”

The AFGC does not support specific trademarks or certifications but believes that improving consumer awareness and transparency of sourcing is vital.

Mathews said there is a risk of demonising an entire industry when there are organisations that are trying to ensure its production in a sustainable, responsible manner.

“You have to be careful to make sure the information is available to consumers, that consumers have some awareness that there is responsible palm oil sourcing through some of the company policies, and we would encourage more and more companies to do that,” he said.

“We would want to act as an incentive, not a disincentive.”

Acting peak body unites to take organic industry forward

The organic industry came together this week to celebrate the launch of the Love Organic Symposium, in Canberra. With the Government about to close submissions this month on the review of the only protective organic legislation in Australia, industry leaders joined forces to determine a new representative that would take the industry forward.

In agreeance to form an Acting peak body was Anni Brownjohn (Ozganics), Marg Will (Organic Systems & Solutions Pty Ltd), Owen Gwilliam (Organic Advice), Rick McDougall (Australian Organic Director), Ben Copeman (CEO ACO), Jan Denham (NASAA Chair) and Don Murray (Nature’s Haven) to name a few in the group who will collaborate over the coming months to serve as the Acting peak body while a permanent structure is being finalised. Several options were presented by a number of consultants, government personnel and industry leaders, resulting in this body being formed.

The driving force behind continued growth in the industry is Australia’s largest and most recognised industry powerhouse for organics, Australian Organic Ltd (AOL). For some  time now, AOL has been vocal in urging industry members and stakeholders to join in the journey of this organic unification.

Soon to be a stand-alone, member owned, not for profit industry services group, AOL will continue to support and protect its members, ensuring their members and stakeholders from the broader have the opportunity for their collective voices to be heard.

“The AOL group will receive advice and consultation from and with the acting peak body, and our members will have their own say in this before we make further moves later this year. In the meantime, AOL will complete the demerger endorsed by its members at the AGM last November, whilst establishing the new structures that will most efficiently and professionally represent the Australian organic industry,” said Dr. Andrew Monk, Chairman of Australian Organic.

Key guest speakers included David Cunningham (Assistant Secretary, Export Standards Department of Agriculture and Water Resources), Hon David Littleproud (MP Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources), Mrs Nola Marino (MP) and Hon Joel Fitzgibbon (MP), with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull attending the Love Organic Symposium BBQ later that evening.

A national survey conducted last year, revealed that organic food has a firm foothold in Aussie shopping baskets, with more than two out of three households purchasing organic products in the last year and this exciting growth trajectory is predicted to continue. Furthermore, the 2017 Australian Organic Market Report revealed Australia officially holds the largest amount of organically managed farmland in the world at 53 per cent – local demand coupled with increasing export opportunities will further support growth in this booming industry.

 

Booming Australian organics industry finding a unified voice

Valentine’s Day takes on a whole new meaning this year when the organic industry comes together to celebrate the launch of the Love Organic Symposium, in Canberra on Wednesday. With the Government to close submissions this month on the review of the only protective organic legislation in Australia, industry leaders will join forces and stand united in creating a single, harmonised voice to Government.

Paving the way for future growth in the industry is Australia’s largest and most recognised industry powerhouse for organics, Australian Organic Ltd (AOL).

Soon to be a stand-alone, member owned, not for profit industry services group, AOL believes it is well positioned to represent the industry and its members. For some time now, AOL has been vocal in urging industry members and stakeholders to join in the journey of this organic unification.

“This is a great opportunity to unite and bring our industry together and present recommendations. Collaboration builds strength and enables us to create a clear vision for the future growth of organics,” said Rhonda Vohland, Acting General Manager AOL.

Taking place at Parliament House over two days, symposium attendees will hear from international and local industry leaders on growing a business through export and innovation. Recommendations for the structure and governance of the proposed peak body including presentations on all viable options as well as discussions on developing a road map for Australia’s Organic Industry will be heard.

Key guest speakers include David Cunningham (Assistant Secretary, Export Standards Department of Agriculture and Water Resources), Hon David Littleproud (MP Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources), Mrs Nola Marino (MP) and Hon Joel Fitzgibbon (MP).

On Thursday 15th February, Deloitte will host a public consultation to discuss a review of the regulation of organic product exports, aimed at improving direct market access for Australian organic producers.

A national survey conducted last year, revealed that organic food has a firm foothold in Aussie shopping baskets, with more than two out of three households purchasing organic products in the last year and this exciting growth trajectory is predicted to continue.

Furthermore, the 2017 Australian Organic Market Report revealed Australia officially holds the largest amount of organically managed farmland in the world at 53 per cent – local demand coupled with increasing export opportunities will further support growth in this booming industry.

Panama disease found on third Qld banana farm

Biosecurity Queensland has confirmed the presence of Panama tropical race 4 on a third Tully Valley farm.

The Australian Banana Growers’ Council was advised that a vegetative compatibility group test (biological test) has conclusively confirmed the presence of the disease in samples taken from the farm.

The grower was issued a TR4 notice on January 23 after a suspect plant was found during routine Biosecurity Queensland surveillance.

Since then, the grower has worked closely with BQ and successfully complied with all their requirements. They resumed trading on January 27, just four days after the notice was given.

ABGC Chair Stephen Lowe praised the grower for their ongoing efforts at this difficult time.

“Obviously the confirmation of Panama TR4 on a third North Queensland banana farm is disappointing for the industry, and particularly for the grower concerned,” he said.

“But we know our growers are incredibly resilient and willing to help each other out in tough times.

“We’ve been preparing for the challenge of Panama TR4 and I’d urge all growers to ensure they have effective biosecurity measures in place.”

Measures such as implementing a footbath or footwear exchange, excluding unnecessary vehicle movement and managing plant material can go a long way in the fight against TR4.

Those living in or travelling to the region are asked to be mindful of quarantine areas and to stay out of all banana farms unless invited by the grower.

Mr Lowe also emphasised the fact that Panama TR4 has no impact on the fruit, nor does the industry expect any supply issues following this latest news.

“The best way you can show your support to Aussie growers is by continuing to buy bananas,” he said.

Panama TR4 was first detected in the Tully Valley in March 2015.

 

 

ACCC releases guidance on free range egg standard

The ACCC has released guidance for egg producers on its approach to enforcing the new National Information Standard on free range eggs, which comes into effect on 26 April 2018.

Under the new Standard, egg producers cannot use the words ‘free range’ on their egg cartons unless the eggs were laid by hens that:

  • had meaningful and regular access to an outdoor range during the daylight hours of the laying cycle
  • were able to roam and forage on the outdoor range
  • were subject to a stocking density of 10 000 hens or less per hectare, and that outdoor stocking density is prominently displayed on the packaging or signage.

“Shoppers are willing to pay a premium for free range eggs, but only if the chickens genuinely have regular access to an outdoor range. From April 26, free range must only be used by compliant egg producers so consumers can have confidence in the products they are buying,” ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said.

“If an egg producer’s hens are using the outdoor range on a regular basis and they satisfy the stocking density requirements, then the producer can call their eggs free range.”

The guidance also explains egg producers’ obligations under the misleading or deceptive conduct provisions of Australian Consumer Law. This includes representations made through marketing activities such as product packaging and advertising.

“If egg producers use images, pictures, or words, other than free range, that imply their eggs are free range when they are not, this would likely raise concerns under the Australian Consumer Law,” Mr Sims said.

“The ACCC is monitoring the market to ensure that free range claims are truthful and accurate and will continue to take action against those that don’t.”

New livestock traceability reporting scheme for pork industry

Australia’s biosecurity will be further strengthened by the delivery of a national reporting scheme for the pork industry.

The move brings the pork industry in line with the cattle, sheep and goat industries.

Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources David Littleproud welcomed mandatory reporting of all pig movements under the National Livestock Identification System (NLIS), which will be introduced by all state and territory governments from this week.

“Strong traceability is a key part of a strong biosecurity system,” Littleproud said.

“The NLIS for pork, known as PigPass, uses ear tags or tattoos to identify animals. All pig movements onto farms, saleyards, showgrounds and abattoirs are documented in a database using a National Vendor Declaration. This database is used by state and territory governments to trace livestock in an emergency.

“Pigpass means animals can be identified quickly and allows the property of birth and residence to be easily located if there were ever a food safety issue or exotic disease outbreak.

“This would be important if Australia had say a foot and mouth disease (FMD) outbreak—it would help find the source of disease and stop its spread.

“PigPass will help Australia keep its excellent reputation for delivering high quality and safe produce.

“The pork industry is important to regional Australia worth more than $1.3 billion with over 1400 pork farms across this nation.

“I encourage farmers and processors to familiarise themselves with PigPass.”

Gold Coast hosts second round of Pacific Alliance Free Trade Agreement negotiations

Australia is currently hosting the second round of Pacific Alliance Free Trade Agreement negotiations on the Gold Coast.

Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, Steven Ciobo (pictured) said in a statement the Gold Coast negotiation round, which started yesterday and will continue until 2 February, bring together trade negotiators from Australia and the Pacific Alliance – the Latin American trading bloc comprising Mexico, Chile, Colombia and Peru.

Launched in June 2017, the negotiations present an opportunity to strengthen Australia’s trade and economic relationship with these major Latin American economies.

The Pacific Alliance trading bloc remains an under-explored market for Australian exporters; and Australia’s competitive access to the economies in this bloc has been limited by high tariffs and barriers.

The Turnbull Coalition Government is pursuing the most ambitious trade agenda in Australia’s history, to allow Australian exporters access to new markets and new export opportunities.

A comprehensive and high-quality FTA will open the door to new and rapidly growing markets for Australian businesses, putting our exporters on the same footing with the United States, the European Union and Canada – who all have FTAs that give them preferential access.

This is also an opportunity to build on our negotiating experience with the recently concluded Peru-Australia FTA and the Australia-Chile FTA, to deliver enhanced outcomes in targeted areas quickly.

The upcoming round will be focused on improving access across Pacific Alliance countries for Australian goods, investment and services.

Our collective activities will complement ongoing joint efforts to bring the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) into force.

In search of environmentally friendly shopping bags

Free plastic carrier bags will disappear from Australia’s two largest supermarkets in 2018. There are many arguments for and against this change, as it is important to look at the all environmental impacts of their alternatives. Dr Carol Kilcullen-Lawrence writes.

Free plastic carrier bags are often referred to as single use; however, this doesn’t take into account their downstream use as bin liners for example. Studies show that, in South Australia when this change occurred, sales of bags for refuse massively increased. In many cases, these bin liners are heavier than carrier bags, so more plastic reaches landfill. Additionally, if light-weight supermarket bags are replaced with thicker bags that customers pay a small fee for, while these are designed to be reusable for a while, if they eventually end up as bin liners the negative environmental impact is even greater.

In Europe they have taken some steps to avoid this use of the sturdier bags for refuse, by describing them as a ‘Bag for Life’ so when they are no longer suitable for carrying groceries, they can be returned to the supermarket for recycling and replaced with a new one free of charge. It’s important to point out however that the colourful branding with supermarket logos etc. provides another negative environmental impact compared to plain light- weight bags.

Many would be surprised at the findings when sustainability of different carrier bags is assessed throughout their full lifecycle. A common reaction is to assume paper bags have the lowest environmental impact. In fact, although studies vary, all agree that paper bags have higher or equal environmental impact (depending upon which specific impact is being measured) as light- weight plastic bags and fabric reusable bags. Paper is only more favourable if measuring eutrophication, as manufacturing and recycling paper carrier bags has a lower impact on our waterways in terms of release of nutrients. In considering other types of environmental impact, resource use, energy and greenhouse gas production, the most favourable carrier bags are light-weight plastic and reusable fabric bags.

Looking more closely at reusable fabric bags, focus clearly needs to shift to how many times they are actually reused. To ensure their impact remains the most favourable they must be reused at least 100 times, with some analysis claiming this can be as high as 175 times. This varies depending on their actual composition, be it PP, PET, cotton or hemp and the like. Many are not sturdy enough to last the distance, in terms of stitching etc. Some customers also raise concerns about hygiene and no studies have taken into account the impacts of regularly washing bags.

While not as numerous as supermarket bags, it would be good to see investigations into other types of free shopping bags at retail outlets. The formats of these are wide and variable – high quality, heavy- weight, paper and plastic – many with elaborate ribbon and cord handles so that when customers recycle them, they are unlikely to deconstruct them into separate components that are compatible with recycling together.

Many DIY stores are giving customers access to cardboard packaging that their goods have been delivered to the store in. This was popular for groceries in many parts of the world years ago. While this could be acceptable to many customers, space is premium in supermarkets and this may not fit with the in-store image large chains want to portray.

Once light-weight carrier bags are gone, will the focus shift to the smaller light-weight grocery bags used for customers to select their own loose produce? Increasingly, there are options emerging to buy fabric reusable versions of these and in reality they could themselves be reused several times as they are not subject to the stresses put on carrier bags.

There are so many factors that come into play when assessing which carrier bags are truly best for the environment. An Australia-wide approach is more likely to achieve the best outcome, rather than individual states and supermarket chains making random decisions. Light-weight plastic carrier bags are not necessarily the worst environmental option, so perhaps the focus needs to move to offering customers effective ways to recycle them. Essentially, their composition is almost identical to many soft plastics used to package all types of products used in the home, and courier bags from online shopping. We shouldn’t accept that these are destined for landfill. Light-weight plastic carrier bags can be diverted into schemes that are emerging for such household waste.

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Dr Carol Kilcullen-Lawrence FAIP PhD is National President of the Australian Institute of Packaging (AIP).