Buy local over imported vegetables
BUYING local is the answer to curbing Australia's appetite for imported vegetables, according to Tweed Richmond Organic Producers Organisation committee member Dave Roby.
Australia imported $58.7 million worth of vegetables during the last financial year, according to vegetable growers' peak body AUSVEG.
Increased labour costs at home and the raft of free-trade agreements Australia has signed up to are being blamed for the continued growth of vegetable imports.
Mr Roby said consumers could support the Australian vegetable industry by increasing the amount of locally grown produce they purchased.
“Farmers' markets are the only way to guarantee that everything for sale is local,” Mr Roby said.
Consumers should also choose locally grown foods over imported organic foods.
“Organic is about the right growing practices, but it does not include distance,” he said.
AUSVEG communications manager Hugh Tobin said imports were a serious, ongoing concern for the vegetable industry.
“There is no doubt that imports from international competitors with lower wages and lower input costs continue to undercut the Australian market, bringing Australian growers to their knees,” Mr Tobin said.
Imported foods were not subject to the range of quality control procedures Australian grown foods were, Mr Tobin claimed.
“We have the freshest and highest quality products for Australian consumers, there is a cost to bear for this reputation and it's usually borne by the grower,” he said.
Increasing imports of fresh vegetables were placing pressure on the supermarket fresh section, which had previously been a stronghold of Australian growers.
“Fresh vegetable imports have increased alarmingly in the past year from $48.8 million to $57.8 million, indicating that growers are under more pressure than ever across all sectors of the vegetable marketplace,” Mr Tobin said.
AUSVEG says better labelling is required to help consumers distinguish between Australian grown and imported vegetables.
“We would encourage all consumers to buy Australian products where they can,” Mr Tobin said.
New Zealand, China, Italy and the United States continued to be the major countries of origin for imports in 2009-10, as has been the case for the past five years.