Abbott to cut small business tax rate by 1.5 percent

Prime minister Tony Abbott has confirmed that small to medium sized businesses will be paying less tax as of 1 July, 2015.

Abbott made the announcement yesterday at the National Press Club, stating that a cut “at least as big as the 1.5 percent already flagged” will apply to SMEs from the start of the 2015-16 financial year.

However not everyone is pleased with the announcement, namely Australian largest 3,000 businesses who will continue to be taxed at 30 percent as opposed to 28.5 percent – the original figure flagged in the coalition’s budget in May, 2014.

Speaking with Smart Company, Small Business minister Bruce Billson said that the tax cut was designed to benefit SMEs, not disadvantage the big players, and that the 1.5 percent cut is merely a starting point.

“The 1.5 percent [company tax cut] has been reaffirmed and the important thing from the prime minister’s speech is that there is clear sense of priority that we want to go beyond that.”

Billson also added that the govenment is working on measures to 're-energise business' and boost employment.


Proposal to overturn a ban on hemp food rejected

Australian and New Zealand ministers have decided to maintain the ban on low THC hemp as food due to law enforcement concerns.

Several concerns were raised by some Forum Members, including law enforcement issues, particularly from a policing perspective in relation to roadside drug testing, cannabidiol levels as well as the marketing of hemp in food may send a confused message to consumers about the acceptability and safety of Cannabis.

The Forum agreed that further work would be undertaken promptly to consider law enforcement, roadside drug testing and marketing concerns in consultation with relevant Ministers.

Since December 2012, the Forum has twice requested advice from FSANZ on the issue. In the FSANZ latest review, which was considered on Friday (30 January), FSANZ re-affirmed its support of the variation to the Code.

FSANZ recommended approval of the sale of hulled and non-viable hemp seeds after conducting an economic analysis as part of its assessment, which concluded the approved variation would provide moderate benefits to industry and consumers

The Forum noted that FSANZ found that foods derived from the seeds of low THC hemp do not present any safety concerns as food, and that concerns regarding the impact on police THC drug testing fall beyond the remit of FSANZ.

One day before the decision, the Premier of Tasmania, Jeremy Rockliff said that his government would “continue to strongly support and lobby for Federal approval for the use of industrial hemp products in food, which has huge potential to open new markets for the industry."


Adelaide couple on trial for supplying raw milk

A couple who sold "shares" in their cows to supply unpasteurised milk are on trial in Adelaide for breaching food standards.

Prosecutor David White said Mark and Helen Tyler from Willunga Hill, south of Adelaide, operate what is known as a "house cow share scheme" for about 30 milking cows, ABC News reports

They offer shares to the public for about $30 each, which allows people to take home bottles of unpasteurised milk, also known as raw milk, after paying an additional "boarding fee".

White said the Government did not allow the sale of unpasteurised milk under the Food Act because of public health concerns.

It is, however, legal to drink unpasteurised milk from your own cow.

Mr Tyler brought a cow to the Christies Beach Magistrates Court to show people what they were buying when they bought shares.

He argued they were buying into a cow rather than purchasing milk.

The trial heard evidence from Lance Holberton, who helped carry out an investigation for Primary Industries and Resources South Australia (PIRSA).

He purchased a share in a cow and collected some milk after paying his boarding fee.

His interaction is the subject of the first charge against the Tylers – selling milk that did not comply with the Australia and New Zealand Food Standards Code (ANZFSC).

Another PIRSA official is due to give evidence during the trial that he took samples of the milk from the dairy in August 2013.

The samples were tested and showed microbiological contents well in excess of allowable levels under food standards.

That evidence is the subject of a second charge: failing to comply with a requirement of the ANZFSC.

The trial is listed to run for three days.


Ministerial Forum to consider approving low THC hemp as a food

The Australia and New Zealand Ministerial Forum will meet tomorrow (30 January) to review the use of Cannabis sativa with low levels of tetrahydrocannabinol, in both seed and seed oil, as a food.

Hemp or industrial hemp is a Cannabis plant species (Cannabis sativa). Historically, hemp has been used as a source of fibre and oil.

Hemp is different to other varieties of Cannabis sativa, commonly referred to as marijuana. Hemp contains no, or very low levels of THC (delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol), the chemical associated with the psychoactive properties of marijuana.

Hemp seeds contain protein, vitamins and minerals and polyunsaturated fatty acids, particularly omega-3 fatty acids. Hemp seed food products may provide an alternative dietary source of these nutrients.

In December 2012 the Australia and New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation sought a review of a FSANZ decision to approve an application seeking to permit low-THC hemp as food. This means the sale of foods containing hemp-based ingredients is still prohibited.

In New Zealand the sale of hemp seed oil as a food has been permitted since 2002, subject to certain conditions.

In December 2013, the Forum agreed to extend the review period until 30 June 2014 and asked for further advice from FSANZ. At its meeting on 27 June 2014, the Forum considered FSANZ’s advice and advised FSANZ that the review was due to be completed on 5 December 2014. The review has been completed and will be considered tomorrow.

The Forum received advice from Food Standards Australia and New Zealand, recommending approval of the sale of hulled and non-viable hemp seeds.

FSANZ conducted an economic analysis as part of its assessment, which concluded the approved variation would provide moderate benefits to industry and consumers. 


Former head of Nespresso takes Nestle to court

A former head of Nespresso and chief executive of Ethical Coffee, has lodged a complaint in court against Nestle for patent infringement.

Jean-Paul Gaillard, chairman and chief executive of Ethical Coffee, helped create the single-dose coffee market as chief executive of Nespresso and then went on to launch the cheaper Ethical brand of coffee pods to counter Nespresso.

Ethical Coffee Company has lodged a complaint in a Paris court against Nestle for patent infringement with its Nespresso coffee machines, reports.

Ethical, which makes coffee capsules that can be used in Nespresso machines, said in a statement that it had suffered losses of at least 150 million euros ($A225 million) since 2010.

Nespresso has been accused of modifying its machines to keep competitors’ capsules out of them with a “harpoon” device in its new Pixie range which jams the capsules.

ECC said this move went against its patent.

The company added that a decision by the Paris court would only apply to the ECC patent violation in France, but it could launch similar legal action in other countries.

Nespresso denies any patent infringement and says it will fight the case in court.

In June last year, ECC won a legal suit against Nespresso in France when a Paris trade tribunal ruled against the giant in an unfair competition suit filed in 2012.

It ordered Nespresso to pay 500,000 euros to ECC and 40,000 euros more to cover legal fees.


Delegation finds “real opportunity to expand trade” in India

Senator Richard Colbeck said Australia and India’s trade relationship has the opportunity to continue to strengthen and grow.

Senator Richard Colbeck, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Agriculture, has returned from a week-long trade mission to India with a positive outlook on a potential a Free Trade Agreement with India.

The event, Australian Business Week in India (ABWI), was attended by about 450 people including representatives of Australia's food, beverage, fibre and textile industries, and the Australian and Indian governments.

“We have a real opportunity to expand trade both ways and I believe our trade relationship can continue to strengthen and grow beyond ABWI – to the mutual benefit of farmers and producers in Australia, and farmers, producers and consumers in India,” Colbeck said.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi have said publicly that they want to lock in a free trade deal by the end of the year.

“It was a real privilege to be involved in discussions that will give Australian exporters, our food and beverage, and innovative agricultural technology companies an opportunity to engage with the important trade market in India,” Colbeck said.

“India is a significant and rapidly developing market – it was worth over $675 million in Australia's agricultural, fishery and forestry exports in 2013-14. There is an opportunity to assist with development and then expand with the growth of the market.

“Tapping into overseas business environments can be daunting and the Australian Government understands this. We remain committed to assisting our primary industries to help build Australia's reputation as a reliable and consistent exporter of quality food and fibre.”

Senator Colbeck attended high-level meetings with key industry members and participated in forums and bi-lateral talks on future opportunities for agriculture, textile, food and grocery trade.

“I was fortunate to speak at a number of key events to promote Australia's food and beverage and dairy industries. I heard with interest about India's national dairy plan and was able to reinforce how Australia can be a partner in helping achieve these goals,” Colbeck said.

Australian Business Week in India agricultural activities were hosted across the major cities of New Delhi, Mumbai and Ahmedabad from 10-16 January.


Anti-Dumping investigation launched

The Anti-Dumping Commission has reopened a case against two Italian tinned tomato exporters.

Following an application lodged by SPC Ardmona Operations Limited, an investigation has been initiated with respect to tomatoes exported to Australia from Italy by Feger di Gerardo Ferraioli A.p.A. and La Doria S.p.A.

The Anti-Dumping Commission defines dumping as when goods exported to Australia are priced lower than their “normal value” which is usually the comparable price in the ordinary course of trade in the exporter's domestic market. “Normal value” may also be determined using comparable prices to a third country or the cost of production plus selling, general and administrative expenses and profit.

Dumping is not prohibited under the WTO international agreement, but anti-dumping duties may be imposed when dumping causes, or threatens to cause, material injury to an Australian industry.

“This investigation is welcome news for Australia’s vegetable and potato industries which have struggled to compete against cheap processed foreign produce,” said AUSVEG spokesperson Andrew White.

“As the nation’s agricultural sector continues to shift towards a focus on free markets and international trade, it has become particularly important that Australian vegetable and potato growers and local processors are able to compete on an equal footing with their international counterparts,” White said.

The new investigation comes after dumping duties were imposed on 103 Italian tomato exporters last year following Anti-Dumping Commission investigations.

“In previous investigations into canned tomatoes, 103 of 105 canned tomato exporters from Italy were found to be illegally dumping their goods on our shores and duties were imposed. It is positive news that the remaining two exporters are now being investigated,” White said.

“We are hopeful that this new investigation will further discourage foreign businesses that are exporting to Australia from dumping cheap produce here and hurting local growers and processors.”

“The effects of illegal dumping can reach far beyond the tomato industry and if left unchecked they could set an unwanted precedent for international companies exporting to Australia that could have flow-on consequences for the Australian vegetable and potato industries.”

In its submission to the Anti-Dumping Commission, SPC estimated that the processed tomato industry in Italy received an estimated AUD$1.2 billion in subsidies from 2010 to 2014 under Europe’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

The new Anti-Dumping Commission investigations also follow the announcement of new measures late last year aimed at making it harder for foreign companies to dump cheap produce on our shores.


An Australian first: Making a raw cheese work

Three years ago, Saul Sullivan, master cheesemaker of Udder Delights in the Adelaide Hills, set out to create an impossibility. He wanted to make a raw milk blue cheese in a country where the regulations strictly forbid it.

"I remember the auditor's first comment was, 'what? Are you nuts?' I went home to my wife Sheree, she's a cheesemaker too, and she said it can't be done. Everybody in the regulating authority said it can't be done," Sullivan says.

"Even when we went to our mentors in Europe, who I would consider some of the world's elite cheese makers, they said the regulations won't allow you to make it.

"That was like a red flag to a bull. I thought this is just the challenge I need. This is what I've been doing this for."

Sullivan had decided to put his own name on the line. King Saul, as he's called it, was to be a reputation-making product for Udder Delights that holds its umbrella over an entire brand.

Above: King Saul's blue cheese.

Sullivan started with his fascination of raw milk cheese. He says that common opinion holds the raw cheese coming out of Europe to be generally superior to the pasteurised products made in Australia.

In a strange twist to the regulations, European raw milk cheese can be sold in Australian stores, even though manufacturers here are generally forbidden from making it.

Sullivan travelled across Australia and Europe, looking for scientific answers as to why unpasteurised milk yielded better results in cheese. The consensus was that pasteurisation killed off 'the flavour'.

"I used to go to the experts in Australia and ask, 'what are you killing off?' No one could actually tell me, besides the potentially hazardous bugs that are living in the milk. What it actually is, there are natural flavours that come through in the taste of a raw milk cheese," Sullivan explains.

"I had to speak to a professor in France about it. Everyone else was very cagy about why the European raw milk cheese tastes better. The professor told me about a non-pathogenic bacteria called Hafnia alvei that lives in the very cleanest terroirs around the world."

Hafnia alvei can be found throughout cheese regions such as Bordeaux and Roquefort. Sullivan began his search across the Adelaide Hills farms that Udder Delights sources its milk from, using extensive micro-testing of the soil in an attempt to track down the bacteria.

They found Hafnia alvei occurring naturally in the Mount Torrens region – the very same strain found in Europe. 

He explains that it works like a sponge, living in the dirt, the grass, the hay, the fields, the flowers and waters, collecting the naturally occurring flavours of the environment it resides in.

Cows consume all of that, and the Hafnia alvei ends up in the milk. Pasteurisation typically kills it, but in raw milk cheese, the bacteria survive and their 'sponge' is wrung out over time. It gradually releases the natural flavours, the terroir, in to the cheese.

"As the cheese is maturing, it keeps breaking down the fats and lipids, the proteins, and it will continue to release these flavours and they will intensify. It's like a honeybee. You can put a hive around a Eucalyptus Gum or an Orange Blossom and you'll get that flavour in the honey."

Above: the soft cheeses room at Udder Delights.

Having found the secret ingredient, Sullivan set about research and development of how to implement it in to his cheese. The dairy authority had granted him a one-off permit to research raw milk blue, but the regulations aren't conducive to making such a product.

"You need less than 39 percent moisture. You need your pH to be below five. It has to have 90 days maturing at above 10 degrees. These are all things that a blue vein cheese does not like."

Over two and a half years, Sullivan worked on developing methods to create King Saul in line with the regulations. He had laboratories poring over Hafnia alvei and testing the safety of his cheese.

"The laboratories were saying to me, man, you want to patent this stuff. But I can't – it exists naturally. You can't trademark a region. You can't trademark Hafnia alvei. All you can trademark is the way that you use or adapt it.

"Our intellectual property is specific to the dairy industry. We know how it works and responds with milk and feed, and I believe there are areas regarding the bacteria that we stumbled across that would take people years and years to work out."

He is fairly confident their techniques will not be replicated – or at least the cheese can't be. Working to the limitations of the Food Standards regulations, the final product has taken on a fairly unique character.

After two and a half years of research, King Saul was complete.

Sullivan describes his Edison moment – ten thousand tries before he finally nailed it. One day, he put the cheese trier in a King Saul wheel and had a taste.

"It blew my mind. I knew we had something phenomenal there. That afternoon I had the phone call with the dairy authority and they said to me, 'Yes Saul, but you've only been given approval to research and develop. There has been no approval – and we cannot that guarantee that this will ever be able to be sold.'”

On the chance that he did get approval, Sullivan had to prepare for the launch. If the micro-testing came through with a good result and the authority approved it, the release had to happen straight away. The labels had been hand illustrated in France, the boxes for the product were all handmade.

Above: the labelling room.

There are less than a handful of raw milk cheeses made and approved for sale in Australia. The others are all hard-pressed cheeses – there's no living bacteria or mould in them, which is the main reason there had been no legal raw blue cheese in Australia. If Sullivan got his approval, it would not only be the first raw blue vein cheese made in Australia, but the first living raw milk cheese.

"We were waiting on the final approval from the Dairy Authority, from the CEO. Sheree and I were out to lunch and an email came through with the letter of approval to release the product for public sale.

"We were so excited. There and then I ordered a bottle of champagne, and because I was so emotionally overwhelmed, I went to the toilets and had a bit of a cry. I try and be a macho man but I was so overwhelmed I had to get up and have a tear in the toilet. I felt like I had just won the lottery."

Despite any anxiety that the regulations caused Sullivan in the development of King Saul, he respects the fact that they exist.

"It really is amazing to see and understand what is in raw milk. I definitely am a very big advocate of pasteurised milk for human consumption. Particularly when playing with raw milk cheese, it really is and should only be left up to extremely experienced individuals."

Sullivan says that in the end, even passing all of the regulations and micro-testing requirements, it was only his title of Master Cheesemaker and the years of experience behind it that got King Saul over the line.

"There was the bath milk episode recently…one is a completely illegal, unregulated industry; the other is not. It's like buying unregulated pharmaceuticals for your children – you just don't do that.

"I am a big advocate for the manufacturing of raw milk cheese because it can be done safely. But it needs to be done with respect and responsibility. The discerning foodie in Australia is demanding and deserves a better quality cheese."

Udder Delights released the first run of King Saul in December – 160 of the 250 wheels produced in their first batch. It's sold as a premium product at $150 for a 500g wheel. According to Sullivan, that barely covers the cost of production and research – he himself was essentially working for free.

"What I will say is this: we're just packing, packing, packing pallet loads of cheese. What the King Saul has already done for Udder Delights, it has had a phenomenal halo effect on the brand. We're up 100 percent for November and December and we can't keep up with orders."

Above: the finished product.

It appears the prestige of having the only raw blue in Australia has boosted the business' profile beyond the one product – not only have their other cheeses reaped the benefits of trickle-down RnD, but the company's wider reputation has been boosted as well.

"Orders are so much bigger – they're at least 100 percent above what we had last year. It spiked with the launch of King Saul. I know you get a spike for Christmas – this is like a triple spike. It's completely unconventional in the terms of the rhythm of our business."

Much like Grange did for Penfolds, Udder Delights is betting their reputation will be made on their most premium, small run products.

Courtesy of The Lead South Australia:


FTA with India on the cards for 2015: Andrew Robb

Trade Minister Andrew Robb said he is hopeful of securing a free trade agreement (FTA) with India by the end of this year.

In 2013, Australia finalised three FTA’s with Korea, Japan and China, each offering varied opportunities for food and beverage manufacturers.

Robb said Australia's trading relationship with India was a fraction of what it could be after being valued at $15.2 billion in 2013, ABC News reports.

“The high level of bureaucratic hindrance in many ways is the reason why our two-way trade with India is 10 times shy of the two-way trade with China,” Robb told AM.

“The two way trade with China, this year, has been about $160 billion so it's more than 10 times the figure – the $15 billion with India – so we've got a big gap to make up.”

Prime Minister Tony Abbott and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi have both said they want a free trade deal finalised by the end of 2015.

“These things are eminently possible,” Robb said.

“I do feel with the political leadership in both countries being hellbent on finalising this in 12 months, that is a very major factor in its achievement.

“We're ready of course because we've completed a number, but we want the level of ambition to be equivalent to the sorts of ambition we've seen in some of our other relationships that have been struck over the last 12 months.

“We want to see a really meaningful agreement. We won't sign an agreement for agreement's sake.

Robb leaves today (9 January) to lead a delegation of about 450 business and government representatives to India as part of a week-long trade mission.

“There's no doubt these initiatives give immediate results, but importantly they also create an environment between the two countries, the politics, the business community and the cultural community for that matter, to take their relationship to another level,” he said.

Recent years have seen two-way trade between Australia and India grow in value from $5.1 billion in 2003 to $15.2 billion in 2013, fuelled by the many complementarities between the two economies.

India is the world's largest democracy and is a market of 1.2 billion people. Its youthful population, diversified economy and growth trajectory present significant opportunity for Australian business, especially in the agriculture, energy, manufacturing, mining and services sectors.


Goodman Fielder ordered to pay ex-plant manager $87k

A New Zealand Goodman Fielder ex-plant manager will receive $87,300 after he claims he was forced to resign when his role became unclear after the earthquakes.

Keith Wills, who worked for Goodman Fielder at its Christchurch site, successfully challenged an Employment Relations Authority (ERA) decision that ruled he was not constructively dismissed by the company in 2011, reports.

The company's Christchurch site in Essex St made operational changes after sustaining major damage in the February 2011 earthquake. It was believed it may take two years to rebuild the baking manufacturing plant.

The company decided it was unsustainable to retain baking staff by July and positions were disestablished, but kept Wills on as an employee, claiming it did not want to lose his skill, despite Wills believing his job would be disestablished.

He took on temporary roles and in November 2011, he asked to be considered for redundancy because he felt his core job of managing the food plant was redundant and the future of the Essex St site was uncertain.

“I have enquired several times about my position and my future within Goodman Fielder, however no one has been able to give me any answers,” Wills wrote in his resignation letter, dated December 21, 2011.

“This decision has not been an easy one to make after 33.5 years working for Goodman Fielder, however the ongoing uncertainty and stress has unfortunately left me with no choice but to resign.”

Wills unsuccessfully argued to the ERA he had been constructively dismissed. He believed his position should have been disestablished and he should have been offered a redundancy pay out, but took his case to the Employment Court where Judge Bruce Corkill overturned the decision.

Corkill found had Wills not carried on working at the company, it was likely his position would have been disestablished.

Corkill said the “company's interests were put ahead of Mr Wills' rights” by wanting to retain his skills instead of questioning if his position was needed.

Goodman and Fielder said Wills voluntarily resigned and his position was “not superfluous”.

Corkill ordered the company to pay Wills $13,437.15 in loss of wages, $61,907 in redundancy compensation and $12,000 for humiliation, loss of dignity and injury to feelings – totalling $87,344.15.

Goodman Fielder decided not to rebuild the bread plant in April 2013 and closed its manufacturing department in June last year. The site continues to operate as a bread depot.


Child dies after drinking unpasteurised milk

A two year old and four children became ill after drinking unpasteurised milk labelled as for “cosmetic use only.”

Unpasteurised cow’s milk is banned for human consumption, but since the milk is categorised as a “cosmetic” product, The Department of Health is unable to recall them.

Several brands of the unpasteurised milk being sold in Victorian health food stores are responsible for the gastroenteritis outbreak, The Herald Sun reports.

A Mornington Peninsula child, 3, died during the past month after drinking Mountain View Organic Bath Milk. The case has been forwarded to the State Coroner.

Another four children aged one to four, from Melbourne’s south-eastern suburbs and the Mornington Peninsula, has recovered from serious illnesses after drinking other brands of unpasteurised milk.

An investigation linked all the cases to raw milk. The Health Department will today issue a major health warning about the products.

The packaging for the unpasteurised milk is quite similar to regular milk, and is often sold in fridges next to drinks, but they carry the disclaimer “cosmetic use only”.

Victoria’s Chief Health Officer, Dr Rosemary Lester, has issued a warning about the dangers of drinking raw cow’s milk and written to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and Consumer Affairs Victoria asking for it to address the matter.

“If this was a food it is something we would recall.

“The sale of unpasteurised milk for human consumption is illegal in Victoria. However, all five cases drank unpasteurised milk sold as ‘bath’ or ‘cosmetic’ milk,” Lester said.

“There are people who are drinking it and feeding it to their family knowing it is not for human consumption.

“It is part of the movement that (believes) if something is raw and natural it must be good. But … no matter how carefully it is produced, raw milk can contain harmful bacteria and parasites,” she said.

 “There have been three cases of Haemolytic Uraemic Syndrome (HUS) and two cases of cryptosporidiosis.

“HUS is a rare but serious condition caused by bacteria that affects the kidneys and the bloodstream. Cryptosporidiosis is a parasitic infection that commonly presents as gastroenteritis with watery diarrhoea.

“Unpasteurised milk increases the risk of contracting gastrointestinal illness because it can contain pathogens such as Campylobacter, Cryptosporidium, shiga toxin-producing E. coli and Listeria monocytogenes.

“Since the 1940s it has been compulsory to pasteurise cow’s milk in Australia. Milk is heated for a very short period of time effectively destroying any disease-causing bacteria which may be present in raw milk.

“Everyone is vulnerable to illness caused by the pathogens present in raw milk, but the risks are even greater for young children and for the elderly, those with underlying health problems, immunocompromised or pregnant,” Lester said.

No matter what precautions are taken by dairy farmers during milking, there can be no guarantee that the milk will be free from harmful bacteria.


Health Star Rating website relaunched

The Assistant Minister for Health Fiona Nash, has reinstated a website for the Health Star Rating, after the original was pulled down hours after launching in February.

Fiona Nash's then chief of staff, Alastair Furnival  was prompted to resign in February when strong, direct links to food industry lobby groups were revealed – after he had ordered the Health Stars website to be taken down.

Nash has now launched an education campaign and a website for the rating, which she say is the first stage of the campaign which will intensify over coming months as more food products display the healthy star rating.

The website includes a section regarding applying the health star ratings, and a guide for the industry.

"The HSR system is voluntary for industry to adopt over the next five years, as agreed by the Australian and New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation in June 2014," Minister Nash said.

“Although to date there are only a few labelled products on the shelves, starting with Monster Muesli, a number of companies have now indicated they will be rolling out the HSR system.

"The HSR system takes into account the four aspects of food – energy; saturated fat; total sugars; and sodium content.  Products that are low in saturated fat, sugars, sodium and/or energy will generally have a higher star rating. The healthier the food, the higher the stars.

"We've worked closely with stakeholders on this healthy food choices initiative which has resulted in this voluntary scheme receiving broad support from public health groups, from food companies and from supermarkets.

“This will enable cost effective implementation, and provide time for manufacturers to work on reformulation—to include less saturated fats, sugars or sodium in their products.

Public Health Association CEO Michael Moore welcomed the launch today.

"This is a great day for consumers and families. We thank Minister Nash for her determined work to make this a reality," Moore said.

The CEO of the National Heart Foundation, Mary Barry CEO said: “We congratulate Minister Nash, and welcome the introduction of the stars and are pleased to see the stars on more and more products on our supermarket shelves.

"The Coalition Government recognises the burden of disease associated with poor diet and physical inactivity and the Health Star Rating system is one of a suite of measures to make it easier for people to make healthier food choices,” Senator Nash said.


KAFTA to enter into force 12 December

Trade and Investment Minister Andrew Robb has announced that Australia’s Free Trade Agreement with South Korea will enter into force on 12 December 2014.

The announcement follows a vote by the Korean National Assembly in support of the Korea-Australia Free Trade Agreement (KAFTA), and an ‘exchange of notes’ between Australia’s Ambassador in Seoul and the Korean Government, agreeing to the date for entry into force.

Robb said seeing KAFTA enter into force before the end of the year was an important objective of the Abbott Government.

“KAFTA’s entry into force at this time will mean that many Australian exporters will benefit from an immediate tariff cut by Korea, and a further tariff cut on 1 January 2015; shoring up our competitiveness in our third largest export market,” Robb said.

Under KAFTA, tariffs will be eliminated on 84 per cent of Korea’s imports (by value) from Australia immediately on 12 December.  On full implementation of the Agreement, 99.8 percent of Australian goods exports will enter Korea duty free.

“KAFTA is expected to result in an annual boost to the economy of close to $650 million when fully implemented.  It’s also projected to create many thousands of jobs over the next decade, helping to underwrite our prosperity for years to come,” Robb said.

Given Korea is Australia’s fourth-largest trading partner – with bilateral trade worth more than $34 billion in 2013-14 – Robb said KAFTA will increase export opportunities across a wide range of industries: from beef, wheat, sugar, dairy, wine, horticulture and seafood, to automotive suppliers, and the resources and energy industries.  It will also open up significant opportunities for service providers.

KAFTA was signed in Seoul in April by Robb and his Korean counterpart, Minister for Trade, Industry and Energy Yoon Sang-jik.  


Euromonitor releases new report on the ‘global sugar backlash’

Euromonitor International has released a new report discussing the global backlash against sugar.

The report discusses changes in consumer attitudes towards sugar and the effect sugar is having on global markets.

Each of the 34 global markets identified in the report saw a five-year rise in obesity including the US, where the number of obese adults rose from 34 percent in 2008, to 41 percent in 2013. In addition 27 markets saw an increase in diabetes.

Euromonitor notes that the negative attitude towards sugar is driving changes in trends, with consumers either making a conscious effort to reduce their intake, or eliminate it completely.

Accordng to findings in Euromonitor’s Global Consumer Trends Survey, 42 percent of consumers are now seeking out food labels with limited or no added sugar.

“Sugar is now seen as a health risk by most, and as toxic as tobacco by some,” says Gina Westbrook, director of strategy briefings at Euromonitor International. “Sugar has endured a tide of negative public opinion as the amount of scientific research linking the rise in sugar intake with obesity has increased, leading the government to become increasingly concerned about the rising cost of illnesses such as diabetes and cancer.”

Westbrook notes that the World Health Organisation (WHO) recently recommended cutting the daily sugar limit in half to five percent and that manufacturers will need to reduce sugar content and continue to develop natural alternatives to artificial sweeteners.

“Companies will continue to work with ingredients suppliers to develop new alternatives, with natural sweeteners like stevia holding the greatest growth potential,” she said.

In November last year, Mexico passed a law that imposes significant new taxes on sugary drinks and junk food.

President Enrique Peña Nieto, successfully passed an eight percent tax on junk foods – foods high in salt, sugar and saturated fat, as well as an four percent tax per litre on sugary drinks such as soda.

President Nieto said at the time that the Mexican government has taken a long-term view of the situation, as the potential economic harm from reduced sales of junk food/ drinks is relatively insignificant to the medicals costs associated with food related diseases such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease.


Victorian food industry urges government to buy local

Representatives from the Victorian food industry have bolstered their efforts to lobby the government to purchase locally grown and manufactured food for government run institutions.

In the lead up to the Victorian state election, the Pro-Local Supply Working Group (whose members include the Australian Food & Grocery Council (AFGC), AUSVEG, SPC, Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU), the Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF) and Australian Made amongst others) have developed a proposal that urges members of parliament to put locally sourced food on the agenda known as the Full Value for Victorian Food Procurement Policy.

Together with industry backing, the campaign has received significant support from the community with thousands pledging their support via an online petition at .

The proposed policy states that rather than purchasing the cheapest food available, decision makers will need to assess suppliers based on five selection criteria that includes: quality of service and value for money, food safety and quality; ethical sourcing; sustainability of the environment; and benefits to the Australian economy.

“Our food is produced to the highest quality and standards to ensure that it’s clean, green and safe for our families. The government needs to consider the full social and economic value that purchasing locally grown produce injects into the Victorian economy,” said AUSVEG representative Andrew White.

“Buying the cheapest imported food for state-run facilities fails to take the value of these factors into consideration.”

SPC Managing Director, Peter Kelly, said that the policy is simply about supporting the Australian industry.

“Sourcing from local supply is about all Aussie suppliers getting a fair go for these Government contracts. That’s all we’re asking for.”


Conclusions of China Australia Free Trade Agreement announced

Yesterday, Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Chinese President Xi Jinping announced the conclusion of negotiations on the China Australia Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA).

According to the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC), the trade deal will see improvements in market access for a wide range of Australian processed food exports into China.

At present, Australia sends more than $9 billion in agri-food exports to China, and the AFGC say that the ChAFTA will give Australia a significant advantage over large competitors including the US, EU and Canada, as well as help to reel in the advantages enjoyed by New Zealand, Chile and ASEAN as a result of their respective FTAs with China.

Key outcomes of the agreement include:

• 7.5 to 30 per cent tariff on orange juice removed within 7 years, and tariffs of up to 30 per cent on other fruit juices removed within 4 years,
• 15 per cent tariff on natural honey, and the up to 25 per cent tariff on honey-related products removed within 5 years,
• 15 per cent tariff on pasta removed within 4 years,
• 8 to 10 per cent tariff on chocolate removed within 4 years,
• 15 to 25 per cent tariff on canned tomatoes, peaches, pears and apricots removed within 4 years,
• 15 to 20 per cent tariff on biscuits and cakes removed within 4 years, and
• 20 per cent tariff on soft drinks removed within 4 years.

Broader tariff eliminations include:

Red Meat

• 12-25 per cent tariff on beef imports removed within 9 years,
• 12 per cent tariff on beef offal removed within 4-7 years,
• 12-23 per cent tariff on sheepmeat removed within 8 years,


• 15 per cent tariff on infant formula removed within 4 years,
• 10 – 19 per cent tariff on ice cream, lactose, casein and milk albumins removed within 4 years,
• 15 per cent tariff on liquid milk removed within 9 years,
• 10 to 15 per cent tariff on cheese, butter and yogurt removed within 9 years,
• 10 per cent tariff on milk powders removed within 11 years,


• 10 to 25 per cent tariff on macadamia nuts, almonds, walnuts, pistachios and all other nuts removed within 4 years,
• 11 to 30 per cent tariff on oranges, mandarins, lemons and all other citrus fruits removed within 8 years,
• 10 to 30 per cent tariff on all other fruit removed within 4 years, and
• 10 to 13 per cent tariff on all fresh vegetables removed within 4 years.

Although market access arrangements for commodities such as rice, wheat, cotton, maize, sugar and vegetable oils will remain unchanged under China’s current World Trade Organisation commitments, the AFGC understands that processed food products containing rice, wheat, maize, sugar and vegetable oils will receive significant tariff reductions.

The agreement is inclusive of a three year review process for the agreement, enabling a thorough review of progress, as well as the creation of a platform for further liberalisation.

ACCC sees “no need” for free range standard

Addressing the Australian Farm Institute Conference in Melbourne, ACCC chairman Rod Sims said the commission will be writing to egg suppliers this week.

Sims said the ACCC sees no need for a free range standard, arguing it’s the producer’s responsibility to ensure they’re not misleading consumers.

“We are encouraging them to consider whether they should review the words and images used on their free range egg cartons and any advertising claims about their free range eggs.

“Some have expressed concern that there is no government standard that producers need to meet to be a free range producer. We see no need for any standard,” he said.

“In the Pirovic case the court ruled that free range means the birds can and do go outside on most days. It is up to producers to determine how to meet this common sense definition.”

In September, egg producer Pirovic Enterprises was found to have engaged in misleading conduct and made misleading representations in its labelling of eggs as free range. The Court ordered the brand to pay a pecuniary penalty of $300,000.

Pirovic’s claims and labelling suggested that eggs were produced by hens which were able to move about freely on an open range each day, but Pirovic admitted most of its hens did not move about freely on an open range on most days.

Health organisations call for soft drink tax

The Rethink Sugary Drink campaign is urging Australia to follow in the footsteps of Berkley, and adopt a similar tactic to Berkeley’s tax on sugary drinks.

With sugary drinks and weight-related health problems closely linked, experts from the Cancer Council, Diabetes Australia and the Heart Foundation say the new tax is a victory for the health of Americans.

An investigation into a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages or sugar-sweetened soft drinks in Australia is one of the five key recommendations of the Rethink Sugary Drink campaign.

“Australia is among the top 10 countries for per capita consumption of soft drinks. Research shows that a retail price increase of around 20 per cent would be the most effective in reducing the consumption of these sugar-laden drinks,” Mr Sinclair says.

“With Australia's obesity epidemic showing no signs of slowing down, we encourage Australian governments to take note of the move in the US and investigate a similar tax to encourage Australians to limit their sugar-sweetened beverages consumption.”

Key recommendations to tackle consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages:

  1. A social marketing campaign, supported by Australian governments, to highlight the health impacts of sugar-sweetened beverages consumption and encourage people to reduce their consumption levels.
  2. An investigation by the Federal Department of Treasury and Finance into tax options to increase the price of sugar-sweetened beverages or sugar-sweetened soft drinks, with the aim of changing purchasing habits and achieving healthier diets.
  3. Comprehensive restrictions by Australian governments to reduce children’s exposure to marketing of sugar-sweetened beverages, including through schools and children’s sports, events and activities.
  4. Comprehensive restrictions by state governments on the sale of sugar-sweetened beverages in all schools (primary and secondary), and encouraging restriction at places frequented by children, such as activity centres and at children’s sports and events (with adequate resources to ensure effective implementation, monitoring and evaluation).
  5. An investigation by state and local governments into the steps that may be taken to reduce the availability of sugar-sweetened beverages in workplaces, government institutions, health care settings and other public places.

The Rethink Sugary Drink campaign is a coalition of partnership between Cancer Council Australia, Diabetes Australia and Heart Foundation (Victoria), and is aiming to raise awareness of the amount of sugar in sugar-sweetened beverages and encourage Australians to reduce their consumption.


Government announces new $4.5m Fairtrade partnership

A new $4.5 million ‘Fairtrade for Aid in the Indo-Pacific’ partnership between the federal government and Fairtrade Australia and New Zealand has been announced.

The four year partnership, announced by Julie Bishop, Minister for Foreign Affairs on 3 November, is expected to build support for Fairtrade products in Australia and link smallholder producers in developing Indo-Pacific countries to international and regional markets.

Molly Harriss Olson, CEO of Fairtrade Australia and New Zealand, said the partnership will help improve the living conditions of producers in developing countries.

“Up to 70 percent of the staple foods in some developing countries come from poor small farmers, living on as little as $2 a day. Eighty-seven percent of the world’s small farms are in Asia and the Pacific.

“We have an enormous opportunity to improve people’s lives by alleviating poverty and creating more sustainable livelihoods in this part of the world,” Harriss Olson said.

According to Harriet Lamb, CEO of Fairtrade International, the organisation has 1,210 producer groups and more than 1.4 million producers in 74 countries, generating almost $7 billion in retail sales around the world.

Businesses Fairtrade works with include Grinders Coffee, Mondelez (Cadbury), Woolworths, Coles, Kathmandu, Queen Vanilla, Jaspers Coffee, All Good Organics and Alter Eco.