Australian vegetable imports on the rise
The country's vegetable industry group AUSVEG has expressed shock at the rise, which represents a spike of AUD$122 million (US$128 million) in value.
"With vegetable imports up a staggering $122m, Australian growers are being swamped by produce grown for a pittance abroad – often under conditions that would not be permitted in Australia – and subsidised by foreign governments in order to gain an unfair advantage over Australia’s growers," AUSVEG spokesperson Hugh Gurney said in a release.
"The high Australian dollar has also played a part in this increase, as many Australian processors and retailers are finding it cheaper to import overseas product than to stock locally grown produce.
"I’ve spoken to growers – even as recently as this week – who are planning get out of the industry within the next twelve months as rising input costs and competition from abroad force them to sell their produce at slim margins, often below cost price in some cases."
Gurney described the situation as "heart wrenching" for Australian vegetable growers who struggle to see a future for their industry, highlighting that iconic growing and processing operation Rosella went into voluntary administration this year.
"If a sizeable operation like Rosella that has been around for over 150 years has struggled to get by in Australia, it is clear that smaller, more vulnerable growers and processors will find it exceptionally difficult to compete with mounting imports," he said.
"Greater Country of Origin Labelling requirements, greater anti-dumping powers and a round table to address the challenges facing the Australian vegetable industry in this turbulent current climate are required if we are to see the future of the industry secured.
"This Christmas more Australians than ever will be substituting their vegetable consumption with foreign food imports, and because of vague Country of Origin Labelling, some will not even realise."