Federal government to ramp up anti-dumping measures

Industry minister Ian Macfarlane has announced that the federal government plans to increase penalties against processors of illegally dumped imported tomatoes, as well as introduce legislation that will reverse the onus of proof on foreign suppliers.

According to Macfarlane, tomato importers that have illegally dumped product earlier this month are also likely to be penalised, The Weekly Times Now reports.

However trade advocates together with the labor government have stated that the reversing of the onus of proof could be in breach of World Trade Organisation rules.

Liberal MP Sharman Stone, who has been very public about her support for struggling food processor SPC Ardmona, says that ‘urgent’ action needs to be taken. She also dismissed concerns regarding potential retaliation from trade partners.

“Let’s test it and see. If we are the poor little pathetic scared people who always worry that someone might say ‘Just a minute’, then let’s forget our anti-dumping regime and continue as before,” said Stone.

SPCA recently secured $22m from the Victorian state government, and $78m from parent company Coca-Cola Amatil as part of a restructure plan over the next three years.

CCA announced this week that it had taken in excess of a $400m hit to profits due to write-downs related to SPC Ardmona. CCA says that the write-downs are a result of dumped imported product and the high Australian dollar.


Olive oil importers lodge ACCC complaint over ‘misleading’ AOA claims

The industry body representing olive oil importers, the Australian Olive Oil Association (AOOA) has lodged a complaint with the ACCC, stating that a new advertising campaign from the Australian Olive Association (AOA) is promoting ‘misleading information’ on imported oil.

The campaign, which features dietician Dr Joanna McMillan states that Australian olive oil is “fresher, tastier and better for you” – a claim that the AOOA alleges is misleading and has no factual basis. The association also claims that nine out of 10 olive oils tested by the body failed to meet Australian standards.

The AOOA, which represents a significant number of olive oil importers as well as some local growers say that the advertising campaign is ‘actively promoting against’ imported olive oils and that the association is using ‘scare tactics’ to promote its agenda.

AOOA president David Valmorbida, says that the campaign is doing the industry a disservice.

"We feel that there are a number of inaccuracies in the campaign that has been launched by the AOA, which are significantly misleading to consumers and ultimately and not in the best interests of the industry," says Valmorbida.

"They have been involved in active promotion against imported olive oils for some time now. But we do take issue when incorrect information is passed on to consumers because it is not in their best interests.

"Certainly what we don't want is for consumers to turn around and think that there is something wrong with olive oil and the olive oil category and begin reverting their choice to other types of cooking oils which may be less healthy for them.”

Lisa Rowntree, CEO of the AOA said it had comprehensive evidence to support its claims.

"Of course importers are going to try to defend their position, but at the end of the day they know we are right. Embarrassingly for them, most of the oils we tested not only failed the Australian standards but also their own IOC standard," she said.

"This is such a big problem worldwide that the EU has openly admitted that olive oil is their No. 1 issue. Our Australian standard is a robust document that was approved by all the stakeholders, including the importer representatives at that time.

"In fact our Australian standards are now been evaluated and discussed by European authorities to incorporate them in their legislation to fight against the widespread adulteration issue."

Nine out of 10 imported olive oils fail Australian standards [video]

Testing by the Australian Olive Association has found that up to nine out of 10 imported olive oil brands are failing Australian standards and are labelled incorrectly.

During September 2011 and August 2013, the Association tested 106 imported oils from 40 brands and found that 77 percent of oils failed the Australian standard AS 5264-2011, with 93 percent of brands failing the standard for at least one product in their range. These findings are consistent findings published in Choice Magazine in 2010: that 80 percent of imported oils failed extra virgin standards.

Before releasing the Australian Standard for Olive Oil (AS 5264-2011) in July 2011, Australia was one of the few countries that didn’t have a published standard for olive oil. Today, supporting the Standard is a voluntary Code of Practice, designed to support quality, authenticity and confidence in the Australian olive industry and its products. Producers subscribing to this code carry a triangle certification symbol on their products.

Of all the mainstream edible oils, extra virgin olive oil is the only oil that has not been chemically or physically refined, and is 100 percent natural juice squeezed from fresh olive fruit, and represents 90 to 95 percent of olive oil produced in Australia.

Other countries, however, don’t subscribe to the same standards. In October 2013 the European Union admitted that when it comes to food fraud, olive oil is the most affected product, with fraud including anything from substituting Greek olive oil for Italian olive oil, to adding refined olive oils or cheaper oils to the extra virgin olive oil.

To help promote Australian oils, the Australian Olive Association (AOA) has launched a national campaign, headed up by nutritionist Dr Joanna McMillan, to educate consumers about the benefits of buying Australian olive oil, promoting Australian extra virgin olive oil as the fresher, healthier and tastier olive oil (see video below).

CEO of the Australian Olive Association, Lisa Rowntree, said “We have been lobbying for two years for imported olive oils to comply with the Australian Standard and now the AOA has taken the only option available by directly educating the public with this campaign endorsed by Dr McMillan.

“We encourage all conscientious consumers, cooks and chefs nationwide to swap to Australian olive oils. If they haven’t already; make the pledge today.”

The Buy Australian Olive Oil campaign commenced on 1 December on television and radio.



Anti-Dumping Commission approves tariff on imported tomatoes

The Anti-Dumping Commissioner has decided to enforce a nine percent tariff on imported tinned tomatoes, despite the Productivity Commission rejected an application for safeguards just weeks ago.

The Commissioner found that imported goods have cause material injury to local producers, and in a preliminary decision, have found in favour of the application by SPC Ardmona of alleged dumping of prepared tomato products exported to Australia from Italy.

SPCA has also applied to the Anti-Dumping Commission to look into alleged dumping of peaches.

The finding means that tariffs of around nine percent will be placed on 14 Italian processed tomato brands, effective immediately.

Managing director at SPC Ardmona, Peter Kelly, described the decision as a positive step forward for the brand and for Australian tomato growers.

"We have been challenging the unfair market resulting from tough economic conditions over the past five years," he said

"This [decision] has boosted our confidence in the Anti-Dumping Commission process and we’re looking forward to a favourable decision on our full submission."

The full anti-dumping report into tomatoes will be finalised in January 2014 at which time the Minister for Industry will determine the level of measures (tariffs) that may continue.

Paul Bastian, national secretary of the Australian Manufacturing Workers' Union (AMWU) also welcomed the decision as one made in the interest of local manufacturing and jobs.

"We have 1,500 people employed at SPCA in the Goulburn Valley with the whole operation supporting about 2,700 jobs when you add in growers, logistics and other knock-on services," he said

"The dumping of cheap tomatoes and fruit in this country from other nations has threatened SPCA’s ongoing viability and the AMWU has supported their efforts to get the government to act."

The decision comes just weeks after accelerated reports compiled by the Productivity Commission found that emergency safeguard measures against cheap imported processed fruit and tomato products are not warranted.

The Commission's full report on the application for safeguards is expected at the end of the year.

"This correct decision by the Anti-Dumping Commission brings into question what the Productivity Commission was doing in its interim decision when it found that while the industry was suffering serious injury it would not impose WTO sanctioned safeguards," Bastian said.

"This leaves in serious doubt whether the Productivity Commission is prepared to make decisions based on facts, on the real pressures and unfair trade practices confronting our industry and in the interest of our people or whether it is purely ideology that guides their deliberations."


Biosecurity job cuts puts our clean food reputation at risk: WA farmers

Australia's reputation as a clean, green food producer is under threat with the Federal Department of Agriculture announcing it's to cut 220 jobs, with biosecurity staff the first in line.

West Australian farmers say this will threaten the country' reputation as a clean food producer, with WAFarmers president, Dale Park, arguing biosecurity staff play an essential role in keeping the food producing industry free from harmful pests and diseases, thewest.com.au reports.

"They are taking dangerous risks with our industry and as the foot and mouth study highlighted the cost of vigilance is far, far lower than the potential cost losing markets and our ability to produce clean and green food," Park said.

The study Park refers to is a new costing model from the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES), released one month ago, which found that a foot and mouth disease outbreak would cost Australia $50 billion over a decade.

The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry is offering voluntary redundancies to staff in its border compliance division in Canberra – which plays a key tole in manaing biosecurity protection – as well as the passenger, mail and cargo programs in the regions.


Australian Ham Week kicks off with Awards for Excellence

Australian Ham Week (10-16 November) is all about celebrating and promoting locally produced pork products, and was kicked off this morning with the announcement of the winners of the Australian PorkMark Awards for Excellence.

The Awards were presented at Warren Turnbull's Chur Burger restaurant today (11 November), and comprised three categories: Traditional Artisan Bone-In Leg, Traditional Artisan Boneless, and, for the first time, Nationally Available.

The Nationally Available category is open to butchers and smallgoods processors who make a ham that is available in at least one retail outlet in every state and territory in Australia.

The winners are:

Overall Winner and Best Australian Ham
Paul Rae, Master Meats, QLD

Traitional Bone-In Leg Ham
1st – Paul Rae, Master Meats, QLD
2nd – John Bartlett, Wattle City Meats, VIC
3rd – Franz Knoll, Barossa Fine Foods, SA

Boneless Ham
1st – Tony Rapone, Betocchi Smallgoods, VIC
2nd – John Yeo, westridge Meats, QLD
3rd – Franz Knoll, Barossa Fine Foods, SA

Best Nationally Available Ham
Bill McDeed, IGA Naturally Smoked Bone-In Leg Ham

Click here to see a full list of state winners.

The awards presentation saw the launch of Australian Ham Week, which aims to raise awareness of locally produced pork products. Close to $10 million worth of imported pork products arrives in Australia each week, equating to over 2.7 million kilograms, and around 75 percent of smallgoods consumed in Australia is made from imported pork (however, imported pork meat can only be used in processed products. Fresh pork has to be Australian, by law).

In order to promote Australian products, Australian Pork established the PorkMark, a square pink label which indicates to consumers that ham (or smallgoods) is made from Australian pork.


Coles cans imports by committing to Australian fruit

Supermarket giant Coles has taken a leaf out of rival Woolworths book by committing to sourcing 100 percent Australian fruit for its private label canned fruit lines by early 2014.

The deal with SPC Ardmona will see the supermarket source 100 percent of its canned fruit from Goulburn Valley growers in Victoria – replacing imports from Thailand, New Zealand and South Africa, news.com.au reports.

"This new offer, including the sourcing of 100 per cent Australian grown Coles brand canned peaches, pears and apricots from SPC Ardmona … is a demonstration of Coles' commitment to local sourcing," said John Durkan, Coles chief operating officer.

Peter Kelly, SPCA managing director said the contract was fantastic news for grower and for SPCA.

"This is a fantastic result for our passionate fruit growers and the Goulburn Valley community," he said.

Woolworths announced earlier last month that the company will be converting its branded fruit products to locally grown and processed fruit once the company has sold through its imported stock.


Choice concerned over secrecy surrounding the TPP trade deal

Consumer watchdog Choice has raised concerns over the ‘highly secretive’ Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal, and is calling upon the Federal Government to release the contents of the negotiations.

The TPP is a free trade treaty involving 12 countries including: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, USA and Vietnam, and Choice states that 19 rounds of negotiations have taken place in complete secrecy since 2010 with all contents hidden from consumers and the general public.

Choice has managed to obtain leaked documents from the TPP negotiations and has raised concerns that the deal could hurt Australian consumers and industry by:

  • Limiting the government’s ability to make decisions on food labelling and public health, undermining current process, such as the potential for improved palm oil labelling
  • Forcing Australia to adopt draconian copyright laws, including an outright ban on parallel imports
  • Allowing foreign-owned electricity companies to challenge moves by our governments to reduce overinvestment in poles and wires infrastructure, the main factor driving up electricity prices

“CHOICE supports the benefits that free trade can bring to consumers, with access to a greater range of products and more competitive prices,” says Choice CEO Alan Kirkland.
“We also welcome recent comments from the Government saying there must be net benefits to Australia from any deal, and we recognise some level of confidentiality is part and parcel of negotiations.
“However, Choice is increasingly concerned at the absolute secrecy surrounding the Trans-Pacific Partnership. It means there is no way of knowing whether some of the leaked texts and reports from the deal pose real risks to Australian consumers,” Kirkland says.

Kirkland says that Choice is calling on the Australian Government to include consumers in the negotiation process by releasing the reports before the next stage of talks, which are scheduled to take place in Bali this December commence.
“There’s a lot at stake in this process for Australian consumers – and Australian businesses – but under the current process the Australian public won’t get to see the agreement until it is already signed. This isn’t good enough.”

Choice says that consumer organisations in New Zealand and Japan together with the international consumer organisation, Consumers International, have also raised similar concerns over the secretive talks.


China’s dairy demand to increase over next two years, Rabobank

A report released by Rabobank states that China’s demand for dairy imports is set to increase over the next two years as the country’s local milk production struggles under structural change in the supply chain.

The report titled, China’s Raw Milk Supply: Still Dreaming of a White River, states that China, as the world’s largest dairy importer, is expected to be a key driver in global dairy consumption growth throughout the next decade.

 “Milk production in China is struggling to grow as a result of small-scale farmers exiting the industry and large-scale farms still being under development,” says Asia Hayley Moynihan, co-author of the report and Rabobank director of dairy research.

“It is likely to be at least two to three years before the pace of large-scale dairy farm expansion in China outweighs the current contraction in ‘backyard’ sources and leads to a reduction in import growth.”

Moynihan says that the slowed growth of milk production in China has seen the country’s reliance on dairy imports grow between 20 and 30 percent per annum over the past two years.

 “The surge in Chinese buying in a shrinking global supply pool of dairy has squeezed out many other buyers and held dairy prices at high levels,” Ms Moynihan says.

“Even when that rate of growth in imports slows, China will remain a major consumer of global dairy exports.”

A key reason as to why China’s milk production is struggling to grow with demand is due to inconsistencies in supply that has the potential to lead to food safety risks.

Sandy Chen, senior dairy analyst at Rabobank said that while domestic dairy production still accounts for 80 percent of consumption in China, this domestic supply is largely under-developed. Chen estimates that 60 percent of domestic supply originates from small-scale dairy farmers with typically less than 100 cows per farm.

“The cows are typically raised in backyards and fed on forage grown on-farm, however the quality of milk is very inconsistent,” says Chen.

Chen says that milk from smaller producers is typically ‘pooled’ at collection stations that act as middle men.  “This structure has also heightened food safety risks along the supply chain,” he said.

However since the melamine contamination crisis of 2008 – which affected the health of some 300,000 people and resulted in the death of a number of infants – the Chinese government has taken a number of steps to resolve supply chain issues and strengthen raw milk quality control.  This includes the introduction of a licensing and review system for milk collection.

Although the growth may be slow, the report states that domestic production will eventually catch up to meet local demand and that the reliance on key exports markets such as Australia will no longer be as strong.

“And it is important to recognise that the tide of local milk production will eventually rise over time and compete more strongly with imported product, albeit at a relatively high price point due to local production costs, ” says Moynihan.


Peak stonefruit body urges Aussies to choose locally grown over US imports

Peak industry body, Summerfruits Australia, has urged shoppers to check the country of origin of their fruit, as imported nectarines and peaches are expected to be on shelves when the Australian season begins.

The Fresh Produce Group (FPG) announced that they had secured the rights to import USA grown stone fruit into Australia in July this year following a 20 year ban. FPG said that move gave Australian consumers the opportunity to purchase peaches and nectarines in the winter period when they are traditionally unavailable locally due to seasonality.

Pakistani mangoes were also given space on Australian shelves following approval from the Australian Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF).

Chairman of Summerfruits Australia, Andrew Finlay, said that consumers need to get behind local industry by purchasing locally grown fruit now that the season is commencing.

 “It’s important for grocery buyers to know imported stonefruit will still be on shelves when our local season begins in October,” said Finlay.

“Support our growers and help save our industry by double checking country-of-origin food labels and make sure what you take home is Australian made,” he said.

The first trays of stonefruit will come from sub-tropical Queensland, followed by Northern areas of Western Australia and New South Wales, then moving through to Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania. 


Productivity Commission finds emergency import safeguards not warranted

Accelerated reports compiled by the Productivity Commission have found that a request by Australian food manufacturers to instil emergency safeguard measures against cheap imported processed fruit and tomato products are not warranted.

The accelerated reports; Safeguards Inquiry into the Import of Processed Fruit Products and Safeguards Inquiry into the Import Processed Tomato Products, are part of a wider inquiry which includes two six-month inquiries into whether the Australian food processing industry will need World Trade Organisation safeguards including the introduction of specific tariffs to protect local industry, The Weekly Times Now reports.

The inquiries were prompted by a push from food processor SPC Ardmona who claimed that a significant increase in cheap imported canned fruit and tomatoes had resulted in an uneven playing field.

SPC Ardmona had recently given into pressure from cheap imported fruit products, resulting in the cutting of supplies from over 170 growers in the Goulburn Valley region.

The commission will continue to report on whether WTO safeguards are warranted with the final reports expected to be finalised by 20 December 2013. 


Woolworths considers launching new ‘Local’ brand

In order to satisfy consumers' growing interest in the welfare of local producers, grocery giant Woolworths is considering launching a new retail brand, Woolworths Local.

With both Coles and Woolworths facing increasing scrutiny over where they source their produce, Woolworths has created marketing imagery for a new label, ‘W Local’, which could be used in both its grocery stores and liquor shops, as well as being used in a retail banner for convenience stores and petrol stations, TMWatch reports

Woolworths has also registered the domain name www.woolworthslocal.com.au and “Woolworths Local” as a trademark.

The branding could be used across a wide range of products, Woolworths confirmed, including frozen, tinned, snack and packaged foods.

In January this year Woolworths announced its Local Food Sourcing Strategy, which involved supporting small and medium sized producers in Australia and negotiating with them to create appropriate production and supply arrangements.

Tjeerd Jegen, Woolworths managing director of Australian Supermarkets and Petrol said "We recognise that supplying 890 Woolies stores can be a daunting prospect for small and medium businesses, and may simply be beyond the reach of their production capacity.  Woolworths’ Local Sourcing Managers will work with these suppliers to design a plan that suits their business, whether that’s supplying three stores, or 300 stores.”

The local focus comes at a time when both supermarket chains are under scrutiny from the ACCC, which is investigating claims Coles and Woolworths employ bullying tactics to force producers to drop their prices.
A high profile food brands including Simplot and SPC Ardmona have cited an increasing presence of cheap, imported food products on retailers’ shelves as a key contributor to the tough times they’re experiencing.

Just last week a Goulburn Valley fruit grower began www.foodmag.com.au/news/vff-commences-the-removal-of-goulburn-valley-fruitclearing about 850 plum trees – one of 170 growers told by SPC Ardmona that their fruit will no longer be accepted because an influx of cheap imports, the high exchange rate and a decline in export markets is putting pressure on local food manufacturers.


Simplot factory threatened by water price hike

Food processor, Simplot, has been told the annual water bill for its Devonport factory could increase by $2 million, threatening the facility’s future and the jobs of its 300 employees.

According to ABC, Simplot’s chief executive, Terry O’Brien, told Landline he’s been advised the annual water bill at the Davenport factory in Tasmania could rise from $800,000 to $2.8 million.

“I can tell you, you have to sell a lot of green peas to make that two million dollars,” he said.

The company is expected to discuss the viability of its Australian factories with its US owners next week.

In June this year Simplot announced its Devonport and Bathurst facilities are under threat thanks to high costs and the rise in cheap, imported products.

The announcement followed a six month review of Simplot’s supply chain operations in the vegetable category.
Meetings were then scheduled with local, state and federal government representatives, employees, unions, suppliers and growers to discuss profit improvement opportunities.

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

Abbott could breach WTO rules with anti-dumping promise

A trade policy promise made by the Coalition could breach World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules and affect free trade talks with Japan and China according to trade expert, and former ambassador to the WTO, Alan Oxley.

Opposition leader Tony Abbott promised to protect Australian suppliers by making it easier to enforce anti-dumping actions against unfairly cheap imports that are seen to damage Australian companies in the marketplace, The Australian Financial Review reports.

Abbott promised to ‘reverse the onus of proof’ in anti dumping cases, a move which Oxley says will break WTO trade rules, which state that authorities “shall not impose an unreasonable burden of proof."

“WTO rules clearly say governments must prove there has been dumping. They cannot ask the importer to prove there has not,” said Oxley.

Oxley says that the anti-dumping rules could be applicable in some cases, depending on the specific product affected and when free-trade deals are negotiated with China and Japan. However, Oxley believes that the offer of subsides would be a more effective solution as they are more transparent.

Anti-dumping investigations have skyrocketed in recent years, and almost tripled in 2011-12 within the food, chemical and steel manufacturing sectors.

The Labor government created an Anti-Dumping Commission which seeks to impose duties to address material injury to the Australian industry that manufacturers similar or the same goods.

Importers claim that the new system, which commenced in March, has already made biased anti-dumping judgements.

“What we are proposing as a Coalition is a toughening up of anti-dumping practices,” said Abbott.

“Once a prima facie case has been established, that they are selling at an uneconomically low price, well then rather having to prove your case in order to stop it, it’ll then be up to the person selling-in to prove that there has been no dumping.”

Early this year, the Productivity Commission announced that they will be undertaking two six-month inquiries into whether the food processing industry will need WTO safeguards with an emphasis on the impact of imported processed fruit and tomatoes on Aussie producers.

Major tinned fruit exporters including South Africa, Chile and the European Union rejected Australia’s application for emergency tariff protection stating that the strict criteria stipulated by the WTO has not been met, and that the application for emergency tariffs was completely unjustified.


Australia approves importation of Pakistani mangoes

Pakistani mangoes will soon be stocked in Australian supermarkets and fruit stores following approval from the Australian Department of Agriculture and Forestry (DAFF).

Ahmad Jawad CEO of Pakistani exporting company, Harvest Trading said that the approval has come after a long and sustained effort by Pakistani mango exporters and government officials.

Although Australia is a major mango producing country, the Nation’s season does not commence until November/ December.  The importation of Pakistani mangoes would allow Australian to have access to the summer fruit much sooner.

Jawad admits that importing the fruit to Australia will not come without its challenges.

“Major problems during [the] export process to Australia will be logistic tariffs which may push overall cost of the fruit. Currently [there] are no direct flights to Australia from Pakistan and this results in enhanced cargo rates for the export material,”

Jawad says that Australians should expect to see the Pakistani fruit available in stores ‘very soon’.  

The approval of Pakistani mangoes follows a similar decision made last month which saw the introduction of US stone fruit into Australia for the first time.


Woolworths announces $7m deal with SPC Ardmona

Woolworths has announced a $7 million deal with SPC Ardmona, which will see the supermarket giant replacing imported fruit for its Woolworths Select range with produce from Goulburn Valley growers.

Woolworths managing director of supermarkets and petrol, Tjeerd Jegen, said the company's customers have been clear that they want Woolworths to support Australian producers and manufacturers.

"That’s why Woolworths has signed a contract with SPC Ardmona worth $7 million to source 13 lines of canned fruit from their growers in the Goulburn Valley. We are also sourcing three canned pineapple products from Queensland.  These products replace Select canned fruit lines that were previously imported from South Africa and Thailand," Jegen said.

Woolworths will be sourcing Goulburn Valley fruit for its Woolworths Select canned apricots, peaches, apples and pears, strengthening the already solid relationship between the retailer and SPC Ardmona – Woolworths' largest supplier of canned fruit.

The bolstered relationship with Woolworths comes about four months after SPC let go of 170 of its Goulburn Valley fruit growers, citing the high exchange rate and a decline in export markets as key contributors.

Soon after, it was announced that 750,000 fruit trees in the region will be destroyed by spring, because growers are unable to sell their produce.

The new Australian Anti-Dumping Commission is investigating claims by leading food processors, including SPC Ardmona, that cheap imported produce is threatening the livelihood of Australian food manufacturers.


SPC becomes first brand to launch Aussie baked beans

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

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

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

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

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

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


Imported US stone fruit approved for Aussie supermarkets

The Fresh Produce Group (FPG) has announced that they have secured the rights to import USA grown stone fruit into Australia for the first time.

The move will provide Australian shoppers with the opportunity to purchase peaches and nectarines in the winter period when they are traditionally unavailable due to seasonality.

The FPG believes that the approval has come at an opportune time for Australian consumers as the fruit is currently in peak season with excellent eating quality and appearance.

“We have worked closely with the relevant stakeholders in the US and Australia in getting this approved, using selected grower partners we know can deliver,” says Geroe Raco, commercial director – fruit.  

CEO of FPG, Robert Nugan said the approval will give consumers access to a wider variety of quality fruit.

“We have a history of making difficult protocols work through well managed air freight programmes to give customers more choice and variety,” said Nugan.

The move has come at a very sensitive time for the Australian industry as orchardists from Victoria’s devastated Goulburn Valley region recently announced that they will have to destroy some 750,000 unwanted trees to avoid attracting vermin and disease to the area.

The Goulburn Valley area which is renowned for its high quality peach and pear crops, was informed by key buyer SPC Ardmona, that they will no longer be accepting produce from some 170 growers in the region from 1 May this year, sighting an influx in cheap imports as the prime reason for the decision.


Fiji’s first fully organic island is waiting certification

Cicia Island located in Fiji’s Lau group is the first fully organic island in the Pacific and is currently awaiting official organic certification.

The island has been used to predominately grow root vegetables, and for the production of virgin coconut oil which has been exported to Fiji’s main islands and internationally.

Mere Salusalu, spokesperson for Fiji’s Ministry of Agriculture told ABC’s Pacific Beat program that the organic certification would represent a great boost for export and tourism opportunities.

"The government of Fiji recognises the potential and opportunities that organic will continuously provide in protecting our environment," she said.

"I think in a few years time we will be getting visitors from abroad to the island, so that they eat and live organically on the island."

Salusalu said that no fertilisers or chemicals have been used on the island for at least six to eight years.

"Traditional farming practices have evolved over a long period…and are still practiced now – and all these farming principles align well with organic principles," said Salusalu.

"I'm sure it will be the first Fiji organic island where the whole island is organic, compared to other places where only parts of the place have been certified organic," she said.


Anti-dumping investigation too little, too late: Katter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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