Consumers want Australian-made and grown food

Nearly half of all shoppers go out of their way to buy Australian-made produce, while more than a third buy Australian wherever possible, according to a recent survey.

Commissioned by the Daily Telegraph, the survey asked readers about their shopping habits and whether they care where their food comes from, and has shed some surprising results about our weekly shopping habits.

Sixty six per cent of people said that check the country-of-origin labels to see where their food came from before buying, while seventy per cent said they were not swayed by price over origin.

A huge 93 per cent of people wanted more clarification in food labelling with a third  saying they would be happy to pay an extra $2 for Australian-made and grown produce.

The Australian Food Statistics 2010/2011 report shows that imports have risen by $500 million in a year to $10.6 billion, with processed fruit and vegetable having the biggest growth, up by $119 million.

As Food Magazine reported last week, research conducted by the Australian Made Australian Grown campaign has shown that while more than 50 per cent of Aussies will buy cheap imported clothes, hardware, furniture and household appliances, 9 in 10 prefer buying food grown and manufactured here.

Australian Made Australian Grown Campaign chief executive Ian Harrison said that it was good to see that buying local food and drink is at the forefront of Australian’s minds.

Earlier this month consumer advocacy group CHOICE released the results of their survey into the country of origin of product ingredients, comparing home-branded products from Coles and Woolworth’s private labels with leading supplier brands, which found  just 55 per cent of Coles’ products and 38 per cent of Woolworths’ products were grown or manufactured locally, compared with 92% of market leader groceries.

Zimbabwe urged to lift ban on GM food

The Zimbabwean government is being urged to lift its ban on genetically modified (GM) food.

The country allows foods that have been genetically modified in other countries to be imported, but currently do not allow it on their own land.

Imported GM products have been flooding supermarkets since stringent import regulations were relaxed in 2009, when the country suspended the local currency.

The current rules mean that it is cheaper for people to buy the imported goods than those grown locally, which is damaging the Zimbabwean growers and distributers.

Wholesale food importing companies have subsequently sprung up throughout Zimbabwe’s capital, allowing working class families to enjoy foods such as poultry for the first time in a long time, by buying in bulk.

While the consumers are obviously fine with the GM foods coming in from overseas, the local government is still opposed to the practise locally.

Agriculture minister Joseph Made said the country will not allow farmers to produce GM foods because they contain toxic substances that are harmful to consumers' health and are less nutritious than organic foods.

His position has been criticised, however, as Zimbabwean farmers use pesticides and fertiliser during farming, so locally produced food, is not necessarily organic.

But influential lobbyists are putting the pressure on it to rethink the legislation, including the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI), which last month announced it was asking the government to allow farmers to plant GMO crops to boost agricultural production after a succession of poor harvests.

"We will continue pushing for the embracing of GMO production, using GMO technology," the CZI said in a statement, adding that exporting such food would be a starting point.

Science and technology minister Heneri Dzinotyiwei has confirmer the Zimbabwean government is reviewing its policy on GM foods.

In Australia, genetic modification of food is allowed, but many are still opposed to the practise and want more transparency about foods that have been altered.

Over in California, about 70 per cent of residents voted last month in support of mandatory labelling of genetically modified foods, while a report out this week found GM corn caused tumours when tested on rats.

What are your thoughts on GM food?

Water water everywhere: should Australia adopt WHO bottled water standards?

Australia’s bottled water representative body wants local producers and sellers to adopt the World Health Organisation (WHO) limits for chemicals in bottled water.

Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) has received an application from the Australasian Bottled Water Institute (ABWI) to adopt limits to the amount of chemicals, as set out In WHO’s Guidelines for Drinking-Water Quality.

The ABWI said the move would benefit the packaged water industry and bring Australia and new Zealand onto the same international playing field.

“This application will reassure consumers that chemical constituents in packaged water are regulated on a mandatory level to the same levels as those set internationally,” the submission said.

“The inclusion of such limits will also enhance the ability of the industry to compete in export markets overseas.
If the changes were to be adopted in Australia, there would be six times more mercury allowed in bottles water sold in Australia.

Arsenic and lead levels accepted would drop significantly though, and organic matter would be less acceptable.
Dr Chris Schyzens, Senior toxocoligst and risk manager at FSANZ told Food Magazine the changes would put the Australian industry at the same level as other developed countries.

“Very simply, currently we have 17 chemical analysed in the standard, WHO’s limits has 90, so there is a large increase in chemical detections required.

“Having 90 tested as opposed to 17, from talking to industry, and they are the applicants, they’ve said that their voluntary code, the model code, already follows WHO guidelines, and they’re testing about 49 chemicals.”

Ben Dutton, general manager of brand marketing at Noble Beverages, which captures and distributes H2O water brand, told Food Magazine that tightening the code will not make any difference to companies doing the right thing.

“Consider the landscape three or four years ago, the industry was almost non-existent compare to now.

“The point is that we do have some smaller bottled water companies that might not be taking quality control as seriously as they should be so if WHO standards makes these operators lift their game, that’s a good thing for food consumers.

“Maybe, and only maybe operators that are drawing tap water off, putting it though filters and bottling it, would have problem if they had to ensure they met these standards.

“If it means these companies have to life their game, overall it is good thing.”

“We’ve seen over the last four years or so that it has been a race to bottom as far as price is concerned and most manufacturers are cutting prices dramatically to maintain their place in the market and smaller companies have felt a lot of pain.

As to whether the adoption of WHO standards would improve the waters that are imported to Australia, Dutton was cautiously optimistic.

“I don’t know, I do know [Australia is] importing water from Indonesia and Malaysia and certainly we have mineral water imported from Europe and the US, but I would be inclined to see most bottled water imported would be regulated.

“The challenge in Australia is that even though the bottles water industry has gone through a huge period of consolidation over the last three years, we have this situation now where a lot of small operators have gone out of business or been bought by major companies.”

Schyzens agrees that the huge increase in the bottled water market in Australia has led to some smaller, dodgy companies creeping into the sector, but for the most part, Australian water companies are all doing the right thing and just want to ensure the industry is regulated.

“I think that’s the intention and this has been a call from the industry body the  industry are the ones who have come to us and said ‘here’s a set of values we think would be good for water and that gives consumers peace of mind’”.

“They are the ones who want this, because they already highly regulate themselves, so they want to ensure everyone else is doing the same.

Dutton told Food Magazine that for the companies doing the right thing, which most of them are, there is nothing to be concerned about if the WHO standards are introduced.

“In the Australian industry, there are a lot that are already testing to quite high specifications, whether that’s because they’re trying to get into supermarkets or retailers, they have so many reasons, including the safety of consumers, to do so.

“One New Zealand company is trying to enter the New York market, for example, and their specifications are incredibly high.

While Dutton and Schyzens both agree on the vast majority of the potential new guidelines, there is one issue where their opinions differ.

FSANZ wants to accept all the chemical standards except for the fluoride standard, which it wants to maintain at the current Australian level.

“There’s probably two main reasons for that, and it is important to note that the [WHO)] document allows for nations to make a call based on local consumption of fluoride so we’re not ignoring WHO advice.

“In 2009, after a lot of research and consultation, we determined the maximum should be 1.0 milligrams per litre, which is the same as one part per million.

“So we thought if you have fluoride in packaged water, fluoride is fluoride, wether it’s naturally occurring or added.
“Everyone should be confident standard is at 1.0.”

Dutton explained Noble’s stance on fluoride is about offering consumers choice.

“Our brand is a 100 per cent fluoride free brand and the reason we remove it is because we believe people should have a choice whether they drink fluoride or not.

“People don’t have a choice with government water, but we believe naturally occurring fluoride, not added fluoride, should be the only kind.

“Mass medication is an interesting exercise, but when you deploy mass medication through water, people don’t have a choice as to whether they take the medication or not and there are a million and one studies done into this and the way you look at them can support or disagree with fluoride.

“FSANZ has already allowed bottled water companies to add fluoride but I don’t believe any brand has gone ahead and done that.

“Which makes sense, because consumer are buying it because they don’t want added fluoride, however, naturally it can occur in some streams.”

Schyzens did assure, however, that FSANZ would not be implementing minimum fluoride standards, only a cap on the maximum allowed.

“Added fluoride is just for dental reasons, and is such an incredible public health utility, whilst at same time, we recognise some people are strictly opposed to it, and we’re not saying people have to add fluoride to water, just that they can’t go over one part per million.”

Do you support the tougher regulation of the bottled water industry in Australia?

Buying local food most important to Aussies, research finds

Australians are more likely to buy locally grown foods than any other products, new research has shown.

Research conducted by the Australian Made Australian Grown campaign has shown that while more than 50 per cent of Aussies will buy cheap imported clothes, hardware, furniture and household appliances, 9 in 10 prefer buying food grown and manufactured here.

The Roy Morgan research commissioned by Australian Made Australian Grown found that for many products, consumers don’t care about buying local or imported.

Australian Made Australian Grown Campaign chief executive Ian Harrison said that while the findings were "extremely worrying" and warned more jobs would be lost unless consumers change their attitude across the downward trending sectors, it was good to see that buying local food and drink is at the forefront of Australian’s minds.

He said confidence in the safety and quality of local produce grown in Australia is one of the main reasons the majority of the 1200 adults surveyed buy local produce.

The AMAG campaign is working to educate consumers about the use of the Australian Made logo, and the definitions of Australian made products.

Only one in three surveyed knew that the products had to be substantially produced or manufactured in Australia to be able to use the logo, and four in 10 consumers surveyed said they find it difficult to identify whether a product is Australian made.

Harrison told the Food Magazine Industry Leaders Summit in August that the organisation wants the definitions and legal parameters of using the label to be stricter, as more companies are able to find loopholes to promote their products as Australian, when in fact they are made primarily from foreign ingredients.

“Tighten up the definitions of substantial transformation, I think one of the problems we find in the industry and one the consumers don’t like is ‘maybe’ particularly in the area of food,” he said.

“You have to substantially transform the product in Australia, and you have to have more than 50 per cent value add in Australia.

“Substantial transformation, we believe, offers a very important way forward for the government to put a bit of strength and predictability into food labelling.

“We think you can actually make some fundamental changes to what constitutes substantial transformation.”

The iconic image was an initiative of the federal government in 1986, and is a certification trademark, as Harrison explained at the Food Magazine Industry Leaders Summit.

It is a “very legal instrument, which has a set of rules behind it and those rules can’t be changed without agreement between us and the government,” he said.

For 10 years up to 1996, the symbol and its use was run by the Advanced Australia Foundation, before a change in government saw the funding that was set up for the logo removed.

“We’re non- for profit, we’re a public company limited by guarantee,” he said.

“In 2007, the federal government introduced Australian Grown.

“We rewrote our rules at that time and we changed the name of the symbol from the Australian Made logo to the Australian Made Australian Grown logo.

“It gets a bit more complicated for us because last year we introduced Australian seafood driven by the seafood industry, and internationally we introduced Australian to be used offshore.

“I’m happy t o say has grown significantly in the last five or six years.

“We’ve got about 1,700 companies using it just over, and on about 10, 000 products, so there’s a very, very wide usage across all sectors, and of these companies, 44 % of them export.”

Earlier this month consumer advocacy group CHOICE released the results of their survey into the country of origin of product ingredients, comparing home-branded products from Coles and Woolworth’s private labels with leading supplier brands, which found  just 55 per cent of Coles’ products and 38 per cent of Woolworths’ products were grown or manufactured locally, compared with 92% of market leader groceries.

More than 100 000 jobs have been lost in the manufacturing sector in the last five years, an industry task force released last month revealed, and the rapid increase in private label products on Australian supermarket shelves is reducing the amount of choice consumers have, while also significantly impacting farmers.

A study earlier this year found that one in four products sold in Australian supermarkets is now private label, and of those, one in two is imported.

What  products do you make sure you buy Australian Made? 

Australian HC Calls for trade ties with Pakistan

The potential to increase bilateral trade between the economies of Australia and Pakistan should be explored in order to enhance ties between the two nations, according to Australian High Commissioner, Peter Heyward. 

While addressing the Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry on Tuesday, Heyward spoke about the potential for investment between the two countries, The International News reported.

“There is good potential for increased bilateral trade and investment in a number of sectors through partnerships leveraging Australian technology, know-how, services, specialised products and capital, including in mining and energy, agri-business, and education,” he said.

Heyward highlighted Pakistan’s agricultural products including mango and citrus as having immense potential to penetrate the Australian market due to their exceptional quality.

He also went on to say that Australia should help Pakistan in the building of its exports by providing expert advice on improving agricultural productivity, post-harvest value, food processing as well as with dairy products and livestock.

“Austrade and the Australian High Commission hope to see these and other opportunities realised in Pakistan for the benefit of all involved and will be working to these ends,” Heyward concluded.

ICCI President Yassar Sakhi Butt said that bilateral trade between Australia and Pakistan stood at just $US500 million and he hoped that by diversifying exports and focusing on ‘non-traditional and value-added items’, trade relations could be immensely improved.

ACCC pledges to crack down on supermarket dominance

The Chairman of Australia’s competition watchdog has come out swinging over competition in local markets including the food industry.

Chairman of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), Rod Sims, outlined the current ACCC priorities at the Australia Israel Chamber of Commerce’s Business Leaders Lunch in Perth yesterday.

According to Sims, of the 40 to 50 cases the ACCC always has in the Federal Court, about a quarter is related to competition.

“We currently also have 35 separate investigations underway into misuse of market power, cartels, or cases involving a substantial lessening of competition,” he told the audience.

“While these cases are complex, and take considerable time and resources to investigate and then prosecute, the deterrent effect of our work is substantial.”

As part of the ACCC’s bid to improve competition in Australia, which would include taking on even more competition cases, he outlined a strategy it would be using.

It will be focused on the online economy, cartels and misuse of market power and other anti-competitive behaviour, especially in concentrated markets, such as the supermarket industry.

In terms of the digital and online markets, which the ACCC has outlined as a key priority after a strategic review this year, as it poses two of the biggest regulatory challenges.

Digital marketplaces

They are ensuring consumers enjoy the same protections in the digital and online economy as they do in other environments, and making sure there is fair competition in the digital and online economy between new and innovative competitors and their older counterparts.

“We are examining whether certain current bricks and mortar leading firms are seeking to prevent online competition in ways that breach the Competition and Consumer Act (CCA),” Sims said.

“I recently heard one such retailer claiming that bricks and mortar incumbents will dominate online shopping in future and see off completely new solely online competitors.

“It would be a missed opportunity for competition if this became the inevitable outcome.

“Our cases against Ticketek and Flight Centre are two prime examples of our enforcement work to ensure competition online.

“A related case is our successful court action against Apple for misleading consumers about Apple 4G iPad’s capacity to connect to the 4G network in Australia which also has competition implications.

“Other firms, Samsung for example, sell tablets which compete with the iPad and which can connect to Australia’s 4G network.

“Those firms are entitled to compete in a market that is fair in terms of the claims that are made about what the devices can do,” Mr Sims said.

Sims also discussed the misconceptions cartels have about legal conduct, saying the key focus area for the watchdog could result in prosecution.

“Combating the damage cartels wreak on other businesses, consumers and the economy has been a major ACCC priority for some time,” he said.

“For over a year now we have been taking a more proactive approach to cartel conduct, following results from the 2010 Melbourne University Law School research that showed 58 percent of businesses don’t know that fixing prices, rigging bids, sharing markets and restricting supply is a criminal offence that can result in a 10 year jail sentence and of the 42 percent of businesses that understood the potential criminal nature of cartel conduct, almost one in 10 said they’d still be likely to join a cartel if the opportunity arose.”

“Our proactive enforcement and education program aims to bed down the new laws and increase awareness of them.

“We have 10 current cartel enforcement matters before the Federal Court.

“We have a number of active cartel investigations currently underway.

“We have conducted a direct mail and email campaign to targeted and general industry sectors informing them of the criminal penalties and how immunity can free them from prosecution.

"This includes letters to 2,500 executives in the heavy construction and construction supply industries.

“We have made and distributed a short film called The Marker that shows how involvement in cartels can ruin your business and your life – I have personally sent copies to the CEOs of the 300 top ASX listed companies urging them to show it to relevant employees at all levels of the organisation

“We have gained significant media publicity around our most recent court case and the launch of The Marker”.

Misuse of market power

Sims pointed out that due to the size of the country and our distance from other markets, there are many concentrated markets in Australia, and the misuse of market power must be stopped.

He said the ACCC is carefully observing key markets where this is occurring to make sure no mergers or arrangements that substantially lessen competition, are occurring, and where the obvious market power is not misused to prevent or damage competition.

Anyone within the supermarket industry would know that it is one of the markets the watchdog must be keeping an eye on, following an intense couple of years of price cuts and damage to suppliers’ businesses by the big two dominant forces,  and while Sims maintained the markets being targeted are confidential at this stage, he did outline the three most pressing areas.

“Issues relating to the treatment of suppliers by the major supermarket chains,  which include competition issues as well as allegations of unconscionable conduct, business-to-business, which we are keen to pursue generally,” he said.

“Investigating the sharing of information about prices in the fuel retailing sector, and examining the longer term competition implications of the large shopper docket discounts provided between the fuel and supermarket sectors in particular.”

Mergers and acquisitions

The ACCC will be closely monitoring the impacts of potential mergers and acquisitions to ensure they are used for the right purposes – to make companies more efficient – rather than for lessening competition.

“Some of the mergers and acquisitions we review clearly attract a lot of publicity,” he said.

“Understandably, the parties involved in a transaction have an interest in having their merger dealt with as quickly as possible and this can lead to criticism of the length of time the ACCC takes to reach a decision on a proposed merger.

“The length of time our reviews take, and the potential impact on the parties’ commercial time-frames, is something the ACCC is acutely aware of and is taking a number of steps to address.

“The publication of a Statement of Issues is part of the ACCC’s processes that ensure transparency of our consideration of merger proposals.

“We will take account of the reactions from the market and the merger parties to the concerns we have outlined.
“At this stage we aim to make a final decision on this transaction in mid-October.

“Close scrutiny from the ACCC will be particularly the case in concentrated markets.

"As I noted above, we want to ensure that mergers will not result in structural changes leading to a substantial lessening of competition.

“While there are a range of factors to take into account in assessing mergers under section 50, market concentration is a key factor.

“When a merger is a “3-2” – so, when a merger reduces the number of key players in a market from three to two – the parties should not be surprised that the ACCC would want to carry out a full review.

“With only two principal players remaining in a market, each will learn to anticipate the actions and reactions of the other. 

“In these circumstances, the ability of the two remaining firms to raise prices or reduce quality for consumers generally increases.”

What are your thoughts on Sims' comments? Do you think the new plan by the ACCC will improve the food sector? What else needs to be done?

CHOICE survey results highlight country of origin issue in Aussie supermarkets

Consumer advocacy group CHOICE has released the results of their survey into the country of origin of product ingredients comparing home-branded products from Coles and Woolworth’s private labels with leading supplier brands.

This debate has been raging for quite some time, with The Age newspaper conducting an investigation earlier this year that found one in every four grocery items now sold in Australian supermarkets is private label and of those, about one in two is imported.

A poll accompanying the article found that an overwhelming number of respondents would pay more for home-brand products that they knew were produced in Australia from local ingredients.

CHOICE looked at more than 360 products across a variety of grocery categories, including cereals, biscuits, snacks, tinned foods and frozen packaged food, matching private label products with their equivalent market leader.

According to CHOICE, just 55% of Coles’ products and 38% of Woolworths’ products were grown or manufactured locally, compared with 92% of market leader groceries.

According to CHOICE, “for products to claim they are ‘made’ in Australia, the product must have undergone substantial transformation and 50% of processing costs here. If the product includes ingredients from outside Australia, or the specified country of origin, ‘imported ingredients’ must be noted on the packaging, however the exact source of such ingredients is not required”

Coles and Woolworths have faced on-going criticism due to the aggressive promotion and marketing of their private label products, with some brands feeling the supermarket giants have unfairly used their power to promote their own labels over other established brands.

Business information research firm IBISWorld has forecasted that the share of private-label products will account for over 30 per cent of all Australian supermarkets sales by 2017-18.

Read more about the survey at CHOICE.

Government proposes to lift ban on NZ potato imports

A proposal to lift the 24-year import ban on New Zealand potatoes has been met with resistance from Australian growers who have accused the government of trifling with the industry’s wellbeing.

A proposal to lift the 24-year import ban on New Zealand potatoes has been met with resistance from Australian growers who have accused the government of trifling with the industry’s wellbeing.

Growers worry that allowing foreign potato imports into the country could expose domestic crops to zebra chip disease, which affects the sugar and starch levels of potatoes, making them unfit for sale.

The proposal was made by Biosecurity Australia, which promised to impose strict quarantine rules to protect Australia’s $614 million potato industry, which is currently free from the disease.

The same strict biosecurity rules have overseen the import of over 13,000 tonnes of NZ tomatoes and capsicums since 2012 and there has been no detection of the disease in Australia.

However, industry body AUSVEG, which represents Australia’s 9000 vegetable growers, is still angry that the government has not blocked the proposal and has criticised the process that analyses fruit and vegetable imports.

AUSVEG has launched a campaign to fight the proposal featuring a video that depicts Julia Gillard and ministers Joe Ludwig and Craig Emerson as children playing a video game.

Heineken wins control of Tiger for US$4.5bn

Heineken has won the controlling stake in Tiger beer, buying out Fraser and Neave’s shares for US$4.5 billion.

The Dutch beer company raised its offer price for the 40 per cent share in Asia Pacific Investment Pte Ltd (APIPL) from 50 Singaporean dollars per share up to 53.

The offer was dependant on a vote by shareholders of Singapore-based Fraser and Neave’s, and on Saturday it confirmed it had accepted the offer.

APIPL is a joint venture between Heineken and Fraser and Neave which operates Asia Pacific Breweries (APB).

In addition to the Tiger brand, APB range also includes popular Asian brands Anchor beer, Baron's Strong Brew, ABC Extra Stout, Archipelago beer and Bintang beer.

Heineken's chief executive, Jean-François van Boxmeer, said in a statement that the operations will stay largely the same.

"Our Asian headquarters will continue to be based in Singapore, and we remain 100% committed to the growth and success of APB and the Tiger brand,” he said in a statement.

If the offer is officially approved, Heineken will have a stake of more than 80 per cent in APB, leading to automatic takeover offer for the remaining shares, which would cost the company another 2.5 billion Singaporean dollars.

As part of the deal, Fraser and Neave has confirmed it will not "solicit, engage in discussions or accept any alternative offer or proposal" for its interests in APB, a clause which refers to a rival bid from the family of Thai billionaire Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi.

Charoen, who controls Thai Beverage (ThaiBev), South East Asia's second biggest brewer, made a 55 Singapore dollar per share offer for a smaller stake in APB.

ThaiBev is Fraser and Neave's biggest shareholder with a 26.4 per cent stake, meaning it will play an important role in the upcoming shareholder vote.

Dick Smith only wanted controversy: News Ltd

News Limited has offered its perspective on debate over its decision not to include marketing material from Australian entrepreneur Dick Smith in its papers.

David Penburthy writes for The Punch:

“When you walk into the Commonwealth Bank you don’t see advertisements on the walls attacking banks for paying obscene salaries to their executives. McDonalds would refuse to place banners outside its stores stating that Big Macs are rubbish and the Whopper is a superior burger. In a similar vein, News Limited, the publisher of this website, has taken the unremarkable commercial decision not to use its products as a vehicle to trash its reputation.

The person in question is Dick Smith and the material is a 28-page magazine he has written called Dick Smith’s Magazine of Forbidden Ideas That You Won’t Read About in the Mainstream Media.

As a businessman, Smith has harnessed the concept of martyrdom – be it real or imagined – as his preferred marketing technique. He has made millions presenting himself as a nuggetty Aussie battler taking on the big guys, despite being bigger than most in Australian business.

ndeed some of his wealth has come from pinching market share from local businesses, such as the family-owned preserves producer Beerenberg,whose boss said last month that it was struggling to sell its productsbecause of Smith’s posturing as one of the only patriots in the field of jam production.

In a way, the last thing Smith would have wanted was to have his magazine inserted in News Limited publications, as it would undermine his claim of persecution as the basis for making profits. The magazine is so totally out there that it seems he deliberately went overboard to ensure it wouldn’t be carried as an advertisement, as it is filled with conspiracy theories involving Rupert Murdoch’s American citizenship, this company’s (non-existent) refusal to run pieces calling for a smaller Australian population, our alleged bias against climate science, our supposed determination to attack Smith for using patriotism to make money.

Even the independent website Crikey, hardly a friend of News Limited, rana piece by former Media Watch producer David Salter saying it was “not surprising” that News refused to run the insert, and attacking its content as the work of an “egomaniac” falsely claiming a conspiracy.

I would not be so disrespectful as to call Mr Smith an egomaniac, even though, as Crikey points out, there are 29 photos of him in his 28-page insert. He is certainly a conspiracy theorist and his theories do not pass muster.

Smith’s obsession with News Limited is so acute that he misrepresents both our general conduct and our specific treatment of him. A few years ago I heard him on ABC Radio after the Victorian bushfires saying News Limited had never given a cent to charity. I rang the station and asked (fruitlessly) to go on air to point out that in the previous week News donated $1 million to Victoria. I could fill the rest of this column with similar examples, be it families who made the news for tragic reasons, cultural bequests for the arts, money for our State Library, the Pride of Australia awards for unsung community heroes.”

Read the full article at The Punch.

What do you make of the controversy between Dick Smith and News Limited? Who is in the wrong here?

Supermarkets are killing farmers: Katter’s address to Parliament

Controversial Queensland MP Bob Katter has slammed the actions of Australia’s largest supermarkets, saying the market share between the big two is unsustainable and killing farmers.

“In 1991 in Australia, two supermarket giants had 50.5 per cent of the food market,” Katter told the Federal Parliament on Wednesday.

“In 1999, John Howard, the Prime Minister, agreed to an inquiry.

“By that time the market share of the two supermarket giants had risen to 65 per cent.

“Everybody knew that their market share was shooting through the roof.

“The inquiry, comprising all parties, including the Australian Democrats, effectively recommended that nothing be done.

“There were three alternatives.

“One was, as the National Association of Retail Grocers of Australia, or NARGA—the independents—asked for, a capping at and divestment down to 22 per cent of market share for each of the giants.

“A second was to go to American trust laws.

“The third alternative was to considerably strengthen the Australian Consumer and Trade Practices Act.

“Not one of the three alternatives was adopted by the committee.

“No-one can read their report—an excellent report, I might add—and not understand that the major parties in Australia are controlled by Woolworths and Coles.

“No other country on Earth would accept this situation.

“Let me give you the figures for other countries.

“The report I am referring to, Fair market or market failure, gives the figures for other countries. “There is not one other country on Earth where the big three have even 25 per cent.

“But in Australia, when this report came out, they had 65 per cent.”

Chemical dangers

Katter said Australia’s free trade agreements are damaging the health of consumers who are unaware of the origin of their food or the way in which it is grown and manufactured in foreign countries.

As Australian Dairy Farmers (ADF) Director Terry Toohey told the Food Magazine Industry Leaders Summit recently, the reliance on imports could leave not only Australian companies and farms out of business, but also pose a risk to consumer safety.

“How can we encourage people to buy Australian products, certainly it appears that they can buy the products cheaper overseas, and they will do so,” Toohey said.

“Some of the issues, as farmer I can relate to are things like apples for example, or oranges, these products that those fruits and veggies are soaking in, we can’t [use] those chemicals here in Australia.

“Yet the imports can come in.

“We use clean water to wash these fruits but some of the chemicals they use over there have been gone for 10, 15 years out of Australia.

“But that’s quiet alright, we have no say and the government just won’t listen to us.”

Katter agreed in his address to the Parliament.

“We cannot sell on the world market because of the massive subsidies from the other countries,” he said.

“It is almost impossible for us to compete on the world market.

“So we come back to the Australian market, and week after week, day after day, product is brought in from overseas.

“Hardly a week goes by where there is not something in the papers about some new commodity coming in from overseas.

“I am told that Woolworths has a whole three-storey building employing people doing nothing else except sourcing cheap food from overseas.”

“We cannot compete in apples.

“I said, 'Hold on, it's America and New Zealand,' and they said, 'Yes, $9 an hour.' We would pay $19 an hour, and so we should, but the wage in the United States in California is $9 an hour, and in New Zealand it is $9 an hour.

“The apples will also be coming in from China, where the average income is $5,000 a year.

“How can we compete against those apples?

“Everybody knows they have fire blight.

“You had the reason to keep them out, but you did not.

“You are so in love and enamoured with and obsessive about free trade that you will bring those apples in knowing that they have been sprayed with streptomycin, antibiotics, to get rid of the disease.

“You know that.

“So I will be moving legislation in this House so that, if you want to bring an apple in from those three countries which have fire blight and spray with streptomycin—because we have no way of checking whether it is sprayed with streptomycin—every apple will have a marker on it.

“We heard the minister stand up today on cigarettes.

“There is a serious danger to our health from these apples.

“Everyone will have a marker: 'This product has not been grown or processed under Australian health and hygiene standards and may be injurious to your health.'”

Katter discussed his disappointment with the current prawn farming industry in Australia, saying they also pose a risk to public health and safety.

“I say with very great pride that, as a minister [in the Qld Government], I have been attributed with the creation of the prawn- and fish-farming industries of Australia—and no doubt my department played a very key role in the establishment of those industries.

“Prawn and fish farming in Australia rose up to $600 million at one stage.

“We have virtually no prawn farming at all now in Australia.

“We thought we would catch Thailand at $2,000 million. Thailand has gone up to $8,000 million; we have gone down to nothing.

“And that is because Woolworths and Coles are bringing their prawns in from Vietnam, China and Thailand.

“In Vietnam they actually use raw sewage in the ponds.

“In Thailand, they put the raw sewage in the river, and in China they put raw sewage in the river and take raw sewage out.

“We have to have pure, bacteria-free water going in and pure, bacteria-free water going out, which is impossible, so forget about any prawn farming in Australia.

“But those prawns are coming in, and we know they are carrying diseases.

“They have to be.

“They are being brought up in a bacterial environment.

“So once again, as far as I am concerned, every single little box of prawns anywhere in Australia will carry that label on it.

“At the very least, that will slow Woolworths and Coles down from bringing them into Australia.”

Unbalanced market share

“Every other country has laws protecting against monopolistic powers—oligopolistic, if I want to be technical.

“Every country on earth has that.

“We have no laws that protect.

“Clearly, if they could rise from 50.5 per cent in 1991, after inquiry after inquiry after inquiry, up to 92 per cent—and these are their own figures, not mine; they are not my figures.

“Every year they claim they have a growth in market share, and I have been tracking them since the ABS series was discontinued and the AC Nielsen series was discontinued.

“There was to be a review in 2002.

“Both series were discontinued in 2002, so we could not prove anything because there were no series there anymore.

“I am not a conspiracy theorist, Madam Deputy Speaker, but it is pretty difficult to write around that one in 2002.

“But, since 2002, Coles and Woolworths have skited to their shareholders about their growth in market share.

“Add that to the 74 per cent they had in 2002 and you have 92 per cent, and we are still doing nothing in this place.”

Katter echoed the comments from various experts within the food industry, who are already noticing the flow-on effects of the reduced farm-gate prices on local communities.

“There will be no newsagents.

“There will be no chemists.

“There will be no florists.

“There will be no bakers.

“There will be nothing.

“They want it all, and this place [Parliament of Australia] has facilitated giving them it all.

“Woolworths and Coles must be acted upon.

“Every four days, a farmer in Australia commits suicide. And that is the note upon which I conclude.”

What do you think of Katter’s comments? Do you agree? Disagree?

Should we adopt WHO bottled water standards?

Australia’s food health regulating body is calling for submissions on adopting the World Health Organisation (WHO) limits for chemicals in packaged water.

Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) has received an application from the Australasian Bottled Water Institute (ABWI) to adopt limits to the amount of chemicals, as set out In WHO’s Guidelines for Drinking-Water Quality.

The ABWI said the move would benefit the packaged water industry and bring Australia and new Zealand onto the same international playing field.

“This application will reassure consumers that chemical constituents in packaged water are regulated on a mandatory level to the same levels as those set internationally,” the submission said.

“The inclusion of such limits will also enhance the ability of the industry to compete in export markets overseas.

If the changes were to be adopted in Australia, there would be six times more mercury allowed in bottles water sold in Australia.

Arsenic and lead levels accepted would drop significantly though, and organic matter would be less acceptable.

FSANZ Chief Executive Officer Steve McCutcheon said adopting the WHO standard would put Australia on the same level as the rest of the world and would mean more limits on the chemicals allowed in bottled water.

But the FSANZ suggests maintaining two existing limits, including for Fluoride, should be part of the changes. Currently in Australian bottled water, 2.0 mg/L of naturally occurring fluoride is permitted, while the WHO limit is 1.5mg/L.

“FSANZ is recommending adopting the WHO limits, with two exceptions.

“We are recommending maintaining the current lower limit for fluoride in packaged water and a marginally higher limit for styrene, which is used as a processing aid in packaged water,” McCutcheon said.

“FSANZ has taken into account safety assessments conducted by expert advisors to WHO and FSANZ’s own assessments conducted for fluoride and styrene.”

FSANZ is asking for comments from government agencies, health professionals, the food and beverage industries and consumers on its report.

The closing date for submissions to FSANZ is 13 September 2012.

Can Coles and Woollies change public perception of private label impacts?

Despite apprehension about the impact of supermarket private labels and forecasts showing they will dominate shelves in the next five years, Woolworths has attempted to calm the market by releasing information on its range on its website.

Business information research firm IBISWorld has forecasted that the share of private-label products will account for over 30 per cent of all Australian supermarkets sales by 2017-18 and according to IBISWorld’s General Manager (Australia), Karen Dobie, they have been one of the industry’s fastest growing segments over the past decade.

“In 2007-08, private labels accounted for just 13.5% of total supermarket sales – meaning the segment has grown by more than 85% over the past five years”, Dobie said.

Recent studies found that one in four products purchased in Australian supermarkets are private label, and of those, one in two is imported.

The increase in private label

The debate over private label continues to rage, and the impact of the reduced shelf space afforded other companies has led to countless manufacturers and farmers going out of business.

As both Coles and Woolworths appear to be delivering on plans to double private label products in store by 2020, the availability of anything other than private label becomes far less.

Consumers have little choice but to buy private label, as other brands are replaced by supermarket imitations, and according to IBISWorld data, Australians will spend over $21 billion on private label products in the 2012-13 period.

This is already a huge increase from the $19.7 billion in 2011-12, and an even bigger increase from the comparatively tiny $9.96 billion five years ago.

By 2017-18, Australian spending on private label products is expected to hit $31.8 billion, according to Dobie, which is already a 50 per cent growth from five years ago.

“The recessive economic climate has been a strong driver of private-label growth.

"Households have been reining in spending, paying off debt and increasing savings,” she said.

“This, coupled with an increase in the range of private-label products available, has led many consumers to make the shift to home brands.”

“Branded producers have responded to private-label growth by discounting their products to remain competitive.

“However, the dominance of Coles and Woolworths means that they are likely to give preference to their own brands in terms of spacing and design allocations – placing continued pressure on the big brands.

“This can be detrimental to branded producers as their share of shelf space is eroded by home brand products.

Woolworths attempts to address concerns

To address the competition between supermarket private label products and supplier brands, Woolworths has released an Official Range Profile of brands for its Australian supermarkets.

The supermarket giant said the data will be regularly updated on its website and will allow for a “more informed” discussion on choices between private label and branded rpoducts.

Managing Director of Woolworths Supermarkets, Tjeerd Jegen, said Woolworths wants to  demonstrate how they meet their customers’ needs.

“As part of that commitment, we are releasing a snapshot of data about our range to the market to put our business into a correct perspective,” Jegen said.

“The facts show that in packaged groceries and perishables, Woolworths stocks more than 44,000 lines of which 94 per cent are branded products.

“Just 2,500 are Woolworths Own Brand products,” he said.

Complete dominance

While the supermarket is maintaining that their range is heavy in branded products as a way to alleviate debate on the issue, it does not change the fact that the supermarket duopoly is gaining more control of the market all the time.

The Senate Inquiry set up to investigate the anti-competitive practises of the major supermarkets struggled to get people to speak up, and while many will speak of the record, few will go public with the stories of the power the supermarkets’ wield.

There have been calls for an ‘Australian-made’ aisle in supermarkets, a cap on the percentage of private label products that can be stocked and restrictions on the market share the supermarkets can have.

However, while the awareness about the impact of the price wars, particularly on Australian dairy farmers is becoming more widespread, the supermarkets continue to maintain they aren’t doing anything wrong, but are instead encouraging companies to innovate and looking out for their customers.

We invited representatives from both Coles and Woolworths to attend our Food Magazine Industry Leaders Summit in June, but because there was one discussion topic, out of a total of six, planned on the impact of the supermarket price wars, we were told they had “no interest” in being involved in what they called a “get the supermarkets” agenda.

When Food Magazine reported on Coles’ failure to respond to more than 73 000 consumers who had “liked” a post on Facebook detailing the impact of the reduced price milk, we received a call a Coles representative, who wanted to point out that they did respond, albeit three days late and to the wrong person.

Food Magazine was accused of being biased towards food manufacturers, but since  this representative from Coles does not usually return Food Magazine’s phone calls, we pointed out that does make it difficult to report from both sides.

We tried to come to an agreement that when we called for comment on stories, he would respond, and Food Magazine, in turn, would provide their perspective on all such stories.

However, he would only agree to this arrangement if we started reporting more favourably on Coles, saying he would “closely observe” the news section to see if we were doing so, before he agreed to participate in stories on the supermarket price wars.

Unfortunately for the supermarkets, we can’t be bullied into behaving the way they would like us to and will continue to report the true realities of the supermarket environment for food manufacturers and producers.

Do you think there needs to be limits on market share of Australian supermarkets? Do you buy private label? 

Counterfeit items flooding Australian market

Food manufacturers, packaging organisations and consumers have been warned that counterfeit household items including food products are becoming increasingly common in Australia.

Yesterday NSW Police seized 33 tonnes of counterfeit laundry powder labeled as reputable brand OMO, in Sydney.

The seizure is the result of extensive investigations that have run over several months, which aim to track down and intercept the sale of counterfeit items.  

Police are expected to lay a range of charges against the two individuals allegedly behind the importation and sale of this counterfeit product.

“Sadly this is an increasing threat for all Australians,” Mary Weir, General Counsel of Unilever Australia, which produces the authentic product, said.

“The counterfeiting of consumer goods is a multi-billion dollar criminal industry around the globe and it is important that those seeking to engage in this criminal activity understand they will be subject to the full weight of the law.

“The Police action is part of a larger law enforcement drive necessary to protect consumers and ensure they can buy well known and trusted brands like OMO with confidence.

“However, consumer also need to be wary about products claiming to be trusted brands – particularly from overseas- and should always ensure they deal with reputable retailers.

Food brands including Nestle and Kraft are also dealing with brand imitations and working in collaboration with police to stamp out the practice.

Recently, Food Magazine thought Nestlé had changed its infamous Milo jar, by adding a glass bottle to its range, but when we asked Nestlé about the change, they said it was not a new development, but rather a counterfeit product.

The Milo jar appears to be authentic, judging by the labelling.

The nutritional panels also seem to be authentic.

Although on closer inspection, it appears the label on one side is upside down. Mistakes like these, which the authentic manufacturers would not make, are one way to spot counterfeit products.

It is difficult for consumers to be 100 per cent confident that they are not buying any counterfeit products, but should look for the  "Australian Made” logo to make sure, and if they believe it could be a fake, should return the product to the retailer and request a full refund.


Katter criticises National Food Plan, Coles returns fire

Bob Katter’s criticism of the National Food Plan (NFP) has been slammed by Coles, but many of his suggestions would drastically improve the current food industry if they were implemented.

The government released the discussion paper on the NFP, which examines consumer concerns regarding food safety, land use and foreign ownership, last week for public consultation.

One of the key recommendations of the paper was implementing steps to improve relationship between suppliers and supermarkets, and the Queensland MP has declared his support for the move.

In a statement to media last week that discussed foreign investment in Australia and the supermarket domination, Katter predicted that within three years Australia would be a net importer of food and “unable to feed ourselves”.

His comments are not at all outlandish, considering other industry experts, including union members, food companies and produce growers have all said the same thing in the last year.

If elected, Katter’s Party would create legislation that would impose labels on imported produce with potential health hazard warnings (as chemicals used in foreign farms have often been banned in Australia for decades) reduce the duopoly’s supermarket share to no more than 22 per cent and return arbitrated prices for milk.

Katter says that reducing Coles and Woolworths’ market share would drastically improve the rights of farmers and small business “against the might of a supermarket share concentration, unseen anywhere else in the world”.

“The Americans are screaming blue murder because WalMart and their competitor have now reached 23pc market share,” he said.

“Here we have two supermarkets with 92pc; so if they decide to cut down the amount of money they are going to pay farmers, they can, because there is no competition.

“On top of this, they are bringing in product from overseas, yet it has been revealed that the Chinese are putting formaldehyde into cabbages.

“And we all know that the antibiotic streptomycin is being used on foreign-grown apples to fight fire blight; and that water contaminated with raw sewage is being put in overseas prawn farms.”

Katter called on all Australian farmers to appeal to their local MP’s to vote for the measures his party is putting forward.

“It’s fighting time,” he said.

“This country will no longer accept a pell-mell rush into not being able to feed itself.

“And this country will not accept a continuation where two giant supermarket chains are able to cut the price to the supplier and increase the price to the consumer, because there is no free market where there is a duopoly.”

Coles Corporate Affairs general manager Rob Hadler said Katter's criticism of the NFP should be ignored, saying it is “xenophobic fearmongering, old-fashioned jingoism, protectionism and false claims about our national food situation”.

While he argued that  Australia has been a net food exporter for well over 100 years, he admitted that ensuring we maintain that position for coming decades would only happen  “if we get the right policy settings in place”.

“Our strong belief is that a strong and competitive domestic food production system is required to support export growth in the longer term,” he said.

“Coles has an ‘Australian first’ sourcing policy that gives preference to Australian grown and made products where they are available.”

But as food manufacturers, producers and farmers will tell you (off the record), while the supermarkets pledge to source food locally, the prices they pay are not sustainable for the future, although Hadler denies this.

“Coles has funded lower prices from being more efficient, not by squeezing farmers and food manufacturers,” he said.

Katter also slammed the increase in foreign investment, saying it is tragic that the government will sit down and talk with Chinese interests but won’t do the same with Australian farmers.

“It is a great tragedy indeed that we have to sell our own country out to get any investment in food production.

“The average Australian may well shake their head – we’ll sell our country off to the Chinese but not develop it ourselves.”

Nestlé working to educate Ivory Coast communities to end child labour

Nestlé has officially confirmed it is involving communities in the Ivory Coast in a new effort to reduce child labour, following a Fair Labor Association (FLA) report from November 2011.

Following the release of the FLA report, which included accusations that children are employed on cocoa farms that supply to its factories, Nestlé announced it would conduct an investigation into the presence of child labour in its business.

Nestlé partnered with FLA, a non-profit organisation that works with large companies to improve working conditions at various levels of the supply chain.

Nestlé has also said that it will work with its partner, the International Cocoa Initiative, a foundation that works with the cocoa industry, civil society and trade unions, to set up a new monitoring and remedy scheme recommended by the FLA.

Nestlé announced in a media release last week that the aim of the partnerships is to involve communities in the Ivory Coast in “a new effort to prevent the use of child labour in cocoa-growing areas by raising awareness and training people to identify children at risk, and to intervene where there is a problem.”

 “The use of child labour in our cocoa supply chain goes against everything we stand for,” José Lopez, Nestlé’s Executive Vice President for Operations, said.

“As the FLA report makes clear, no company sourcing cocoa from the Ivory Coast can guarantee that it doesn’t happen, but what we can say is that tackling child labour is a top priority for our company.”

An effective strategy to eliminate the problem of child labour in the Ivory Coast needs to address and change the attitudes and perceptions of those in the cocoa supply chain and the communities where they live, the FLA report said.

“Nestlé does not own or operate farms in the Ivory Coast, but is well positioned to make a positive impact on the livelihoods of workers in the cocoa supply chain due to its leverage with its suppliers and the volume of cocoa beans it procures,” the FLA report said.

Some of the measures put in place include a monitoring and remediation scheme to be trialled in 40 communities covered by two co-operatives of cocoa farms during the 2012 cocoa harvest, with plans to include 20 more co-operatives by 2016.

This would mean about 600 communities would be involved, and would begin to change some of the attitudes.

Hot weather in US Midwest damaging corn, wheat crops

A 10 per cent rise in the cost of US corn and wheat in just one week is sparking fears of a significant increase to world food prices.

Record-breaking hot, dry weather in the US Midwest is causing the price hike, with similar weather not seen since 1988, when the country experienced one of the most damaging droughts in US history, which cut the country's corn production by more than 30 per cent.

Farmers had forecasted a huge production year, and planted high levels of corn and wheat to meet the changing global food demands.

But with drought conditions stressing corn plants, lower yields will be achieved from the fields.

"The corn crop is entering the key pollinating and yield-setting period and continued dry weather is a big concern for yields," Barclays Capital analysts said.

"The optimistic scenario of agricultural surpluses that 2012 was supposed to herald may not transpire."

In response, investment bank Goldman Sachs raised its price forecasts for corn futures contracts up US$1 to US$6.25 per bushel, to address tandem wheat and corn prices.

When corn prices increase, wheat prices trend downwards, as demand increases for the commodity to replace corn in animal feed.

Packaging receives Halal certification

An Australian developer and manufacturer of sustainable plastics and packaging has received Halal certification for a new range of resins.

Cardia Bioplastics has derived its range of Biohybrid resins from renewable products, which now have formal acknowledgement of compliance with Islamic laws surrounding safety and quality.

Cardia Managing Director Dr Frank Glatz said the certification, announced today on the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX), is a “commercial milestone” for the company.

“It significantly increases our ability to drive sales as we are able to appeal to a further 1.6 billion potential customers,” he said.

“The global Muslim population is huge and growing and we now have the opportunity to tap into it.

With over a billion Muslims around the world, the sale of Halal certified products is ever-increasing.

In the UK, where 4.6 per cent of the population identify as Muslim, the production of halal meat is rising faster than the number of people of the faith, with an increase of 15 per cent in the last 11 years, according to Professor Bill Reilly, former chairman of the UK Advisory Committee on the Microbiological Safety of Food.

In May, he accused the local meat industry of increasing the number of animals slaughtered without stunning, claiming it is for religious purposes, when it is actually a financial decision, which he says is “unacceptable.”

In Australia, the concern of slaughtering animals without prior stunning is also of concern, and in late May, New South Wales unveiled new regulations in state abattoirs to ensure the wellbeing and welfare of animals.

The new legislation will require a designated Animal Welfare Officer to be on the premises of any abattoir to oversee and be accountable for the welfare of animals.

But Dr Shuja Shafi, deputy general-secretary of the Muslim Council of Britain, has said previously there is a "lot of confusion" over Halal meat.

He said animals can be stunned before slaughter and still be labelled Halal.

"Over 90 per cent of Halal meat is stunned before slaughter," he said.

Last October, Australian agriculture ministers failed to resolve discussions over ritual slaughters, meaning exemptions that allow some Australian abattoirs to conduct slaughter without prior stunning will continue.

There are 12 abattoirs in Australia that are exempt from the regulations that say animals for consumption must be stunned before they are slaughtered.

The exemptions are on religious or cultural grounds, but animal welfare groups want to practice stopped altogether.

The council released a statement following the meeting, saying ministers have reviewed the results of a two-year consultation process with stakeholders and have considered the science involved and the views of religious groups, but could not reach a conclusion.

Up to 250,000 animals are killed without prior stunning in Australia every year under the religious slaughter exemptions and the RSPCA has rejected claims that stunning is not allowed on religious grounds, saying stunning is accepted by the Islamic community and Jewish community and no reason existed for un-stunned slaughter to continue.

The new measures in New South Wales will ensure the meat industry is heading in the right direction, Hodgkinson said.

“These tough new measures are being introduced to foster a culture in which abattoir management and employees fully understand and implement procedures that consistently comply with animal welfare standards.




Reduced quarantine dogs will put WA at risk: union

The decision by the Department of Agriculture and Food Western Australia (DAFWA) to reduce biosecurity measures at Perth Airport has been slammed by a state union.

The Community and Public Sector Union/Civil Service Association branch secretary said the proposed changes would put the state at risk.

The changes include dog handlers performing quarantine duties at the Perth domestic airport, and the eight handlers will be reduced by half.

The change is due to be implemented on 1 July, and will leave the airport without any quarantine inspections after 8pm on weekends.

Walkington believes the changes will increase the risks of prohibited insects, animal pests, plants, animal diseases and weeds entering the state.

"The decision will leave WA susceptible to diseases it has fought hard to be quarantined from," she said.

"This is a clear-cut example of front-line services being affected as department heads are forced to administer the State Government cutbacks.

"With Perth's domestic airport now processing record flight numbers every day, it doesn't make sense to reduce quarantine services."

Walkington has accused WA Premier Colin Barnett of being hypocritical with the decision, after he said he was concerned about federal government plans to cut jobs at customs' district offices and the potential impact on agriculture and public health.

"At the same time Mr Barnett is letting his government compromise border security with quarantine cut backs," she said.

According to DAFWA agricultural risk management executive director John Ruprecht, the job cuts are the result of increased staff at the Eucla's 24-hour quarantine service.

"This is necessary to meet the demands for managing pests and diseases, rather than budget cuts," he said.

"The department is looking at a more targeted risk-based response in regards to quarantine, due to cost pressures and trying to be more effective.

"We are facing pressures such as extra staff, wages, and operating costs."

Ruprecht said the plan involved looking at how long quarantine dogs were on the floor at the domestic airport and if that was the best way to oversee the area.

"Having the dogs on the floor for a longer duration of time didn't necessarily equate to greater effectiveness," he said.

While there will be less dog handlers at Perth domestic airport, the number of quarantine dogs will remain the same, he explained.

"The risk-based approach we will now take will target passengers from those States with the greatest risk and be more effective," he said.

"We are still going to continue with random after hours and weekend inspections."

Image: Perth Airport

Australian meat included in attempted Chinese smuggle operation

Chinese media is reporting that meat smugglers have tried to get Australian products across the border.

Customs officials in the Chinese city of Chenzhen seized the ship which was attempting to smuggle frozen goods into the country to avoid duties, according to newspaper China Daily.

At 1800 tonnes, and with a value of US9.4 million, the discovery has been described as the biggest bust of its kind since 1997.

Authorities detained five of the ship's 18-member crew, after discovering the 60-container ship loaded with undeclared beef, chicken wings and pork tripe.

Australia is not the only country to be implicated in the discovery, with China Daily reporting that the smuggled meat originated from the United States, Brazil, New Zealand, as well as Australia,

The meats presented a potential health and safety issue because they had not been inspected or quarantined, and the transportation method could have been detrimental to the quality of the meat, according to officials.


There is no suggestion that any Australian exporter or meat producer had any knowledge of the attempted smuggle, and as Aaron Lori, Meat and Livestock Australia’s South East Asia and China analyst explained, it would be easy for an Australian product to be included without anyone’s knowledge.


"Often, the exporter at home has no idea where their product is going to once they sign it over to the buyer," he said.

"It may go through many different sets of hands after that before finding its way into some smuggling operation under the cover of darkness.

"I would doubt very much that this is Australian beef involved because we have legal access into China, but American beef is in high demand there and it's very easy to buy US beef in China wet markets, even though they have no legal way to export to China."

Over 500 000 tonnes of illegal meat is traded across China each year, he estimates.

This trade is often referred to as the grey channel," Mr Iori said.

"It's not legal, but it's also very common and my guess is the Chinese in Shenzhen have gone on a crackdown and there could be a whole host of reasons for this."

The meat is mostly traded illegally through Hong Kong, near the southern port city of Shenzhen, and through Vietnam.