AUSVEG Chairman John Brent today called on policy makers to use the 2012 Australian Year of the Farmer as motivation to look more closely at the issues affecting the vegetables sector, including food security, increasing imports and Country of Origin Labelling, on the same day it was reported that Heinz was set to close its Victorian-based tomato sauce factory on Friday at a cost of 146 jobs.

“2012 is Australian Year of the Farmer and policy makers of this country need to keep the plight of the food sector front of mind if the vegetable industry and the broader farming sector are to remain as viable as we need it to be into the future,” Mr Brent said.

“The dramatic trend of processing companies shifting their operations offshore in recent months is symptomatic of the broader picture that has seen growers across the country continually squeezed by higher costs, increasing import competition from overseas and poor recognition of Australian products at the retail level due to a complex and confusing labelling system,” he said.

“In order to avoid future job losses such as those at the Heinz tomato sauce factory, and to minimise the flow-on effect on the growers who will suffer from this closure, we must pay greater attention to ensuring our long-term food security through strategic investment in areas of need and through stronger political support for the sector and its issues,” said Mr Brent.

AUSVEG is the National Peak Industry Body for Australia’s 9,000 vegetable and potato growers and Queensland is Australia’s largest vegetable growing State.

“Even though the factory closing was foreshadowed in May last year, is it still a shock to see many Australian workers put out of jobs and seeing as this is the Year of the Farmer it is the perfect time for both the State Parliaments and the Federal Government to create policies to strengthen Australia’s food industries and ensure food security by reducing our reliance on imports, not increasing it.”

“We acknowledge that the Federal Government is developing a National Food Plan but there is an urgent need right now for food security and Country of Origin Labelling to be considered by the parliament.”

“Vegetable and potato growers of Australia are struggling more than ever before with very low retail prices for produce, huge pressure being placed upon them from the financial lending institutions and the current real estate climate means it is a very difficult time find suitable buyers for farms.”

“We need a serious solution to secure the future of the Australian vegetable and potato industries otherwise Australia will depend heavily on imported food and it would be a travesty to see Australia rely on foreign produce rather than source locally grown vegetables and potatoes,” said Mr Brent.

“Imported produce is often of a poorer quality than Australian-grown and there are many associated risks because we do not know the labour conditions and quality controls in place or the chemicals being used.”

“The only way we can safeguard the vegetable and potato industries of Australia is to ensure decision makers in Canberra and in our State Parliaments not only understand the issues facing our farmers but also act to create policies which will secure their future.”

MEDIA CONTACT: John Brent – Chairman, AUSVEG, Mobile: 0427 593 148, Email: