AUSVEG Chairman, John Brent, today expressed dismay at the lack of Australian representation at the Fruit Logistica Trade Fair just concluded in Berlin and called on Australia’s political leaders to place more emphasis on the agricultural industry and trade.

‘Australia recently sent 114 officials to Copenhagen for the Climate Change Summit yet they have shunned this key international trade event,’ Mr Brent said.

AUSVEG is the national peak industry body representing the interests of over 9,000 Australian vegetable and potato growers.

‘The Government have shown disregard for the most critical trade event for the vegetable industry at a time when the Australian market is being flooded with vegetable imports,’ he said.

Fruit Logistica, which took place from February 3-5, is considered the most important business and communication arena for international fresh produce, with key decision makers, international leaders in agribusiness, supply chain representatives and government officials from more than 120 countries in attendance.

‘The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade were extended an invitation but showed little interest in what is a crucial event for our industry,’ he said.

The 2008/09 Australian trade deficit in vegetables was more than four times the size of the 2004/05 deficit. Over the four-year period, exports have fallen by 1.6% while imports have risen by more than 80%.

‘Industries in Australia who wished to be involved in the event have had to pay their own way. It’s time the government did something to support Australian growers,’ Mr Brent said.

‘The government was happy to rush through the new Horticulture Industry Award 2010 which will make it increasingly difficult for growers to compete with countries such as China and New Zealand. But when it comes to supporting the industry at a key trade event they are nowhere to be seen.’

‘It was almost as if Australia was the poor cousin in Berlin. It is embarrassing that Australia would consider trade such a low priority,’ Mr Brent said.

In the last decade Australia’s export to import ratio for vegetables has practically reversed in favour of imports, meaning added worry for rural farming families who are also struggling to come to grips with extreme climate conditions.

‘By ignoring events of this kind, the Government is passing up important new trade opportunities while countries such as Chile, Spain and Egypt, which had significant presences at the event, took full advantage,’ Mr Brent concluded.


MEDIA CONTACT: Hugh Tobin, Communications Manager, AUSVEG
Ph: (03) 9544 8098, Mob: 0431 939 920, Email: