The announcement that iconic Australian brand Rosella is to close, at the expense of 70 jobs, is part of a wider trend in the local food production and manufacturing sector according AUSVEG, the Peak Industry Body which represents Australia’s 9,000 vegetable and potato growers.
Gourmet Food Holdings, the company that owns Rosella, entered into voluntary administration in December last year and on Friday 1 March, it was announced that a buyer had not been found and that the doors would be shut on around 70 workers in the next two to three weeks.
“Rosella has been an icon of the Australian food sector since 1859 and its closure reflects the incredible pressure and adversity that our local food production industry is currently facing,” said AUSVEG Chief Executive Officer, Richard Mulcahy.
“Rising levels of imported product are threatening the viability of Aussie growers and placing our ability to feed ourselves as a nation in the future in danger,” said Mr Mulcahy.
The value of imported vegetables for 2011-12 was $908m, an increase of 16 per cent on the previous year and almost double the amount from 2004-05.
“On a wall near the old Rosella factory in Richmond, Victoria, there is a large mural that reads ‘Buy your kids a job, buy Australian’, but unfortunately, if we continue to lose local food production operations, this will no longer be an option,” said Mr Mulcahy.
“Some of these imports are produced incredibly cheaply overseas, often in conditions which would not be permitted in Australia – while many overseas growers receive subsidies from respective governments. Australian growers are competing on a playing field so uneven, it is surprising that they are still in the game and action must be taken now to assist our local producers,” said Mr Mulcahy.
“A number of large vegetable production and processing operations have closed in the past two years, with Rosella joining a list of casualties which include Heinz, Golden Circle and Australia’s largest tomato grower SP Exports, and this highlights how current policy is failing our farmers,” said Mr Mulcahy.
“While the loss of 70 jobs is tragic, this also represents the loss of a buyer for Australian produce, which will put even more pressure on local growers who are fast running out of options,” said Mr Mulcahy.
“The leaders of our nation can no longer sit idly while the people that feed our country go out of business, and swift improvements to Country of Origin Labelling laws, anti-dumping powers and labour issues are vital,” said Mr Mulcahy.
The legislation that guides Country of Origin Labelling is currently the subject of an ongoing Senate Inquiry.
MEDIA CONTACT: Hugh Gurney, Senior Communications Officer, AUSVEG
Phone: (03) 9822 0388 Mobile: 0410 047 432 E-mail: email@example.com