Category Archives: national food plan

Who is Looking After Our Interests?

The SPC story of declining demand highlights the plight of our farmers and manufacturers yet again. We can only hope that a public company can get the attention of the Ministers for Agriculture and Trade, because they have certainly not been listening for decades. The Australian Companies Institute Limited (AUSBUY) has warned of the consequences of poor policies and loss of control of our assets for nearly 22 years. Reduced demand for farm goods, value added by manufacturers here needs to be addressed because the food industry is the last major manufacturing sector we have which represents a broad cross section of small, medium and large business throughout our regions.

The story is more complicated than at first appears. We have been complicit in the deteriorating situation for over two decades. Australia’s largess without a long term strategic plan has exacerbated our food security. Open door policies signed under the WTO and OECD Agreements, Free Trade Agreements that have rarely been to our advantage; reduced funding over the years for gatekeepers such as Bio Security Australia and AQIS; little control over the standards of imports relative to the standards required of our farmers and manufacturers; poor labelling laws showing country of origin; the high dollar; ACCC’s approval of control of every major food commodity except rice beyond the farm gate by foreign owned companies making our farmers price takers not price makers; loss of major iconic brands which are Australian owned; the growth of private label further eroding profits for local manufacturers;  and the ACCC’s recent  determination that there will be no code of conduct for retailers, all add to our food industry woes.

While SPC cites the high dollar and competition from own brand, private labels in supermarkets, the issue is a little more complicated. SPC’s lower demand for Australian fruit was exacerbated in recent years when they dismantled a factory in Shepparton and set it up in Spain, because Australian exports have an 18% tariff into the EU. This made sense for SPC and the Spanish farmers and factory workers there, but not for Australia. Coca Coal Amatil appreciated the value of the SPC brand. Its prestige both here and overseas built up over generations by the farmers’ cooperative.

What is happening to all the Australian owned manufacturers who do not have the might of Coca Cola Amatil? We should be supporting our owned brands. We can only hope that this will be wake up call. Consumers are increasingly concerned about where our food comes from and where our jobs are generated. That concern should be reflected by our policy makers. We need to listen to our owned while we still can. Sign the AUSBUY petition to ask for a hold on foreign sales until we have a national interest test.

Lynne Wilkinson

CEO – Australian Company Institute Limited



In Reference to:

SPC production cut to slice 50 percent of fruit growers crop

  • April 24, 2013
  • Sophie Langley

Australian industry groups are offering support to 170 Goulburn Valley fruitgrowers after food processing company SPC Ardmona said it would not be taking their produce from 1 May 2013.

The Company, which is a subsidiary of Coca Cola Amatil (CCA), said the high Australian dollar and competition from cheaper imported products have left it no choice. It forecast a reduction of up to 50 per cent in intake for some fruit categories for the 2014 season.

Australian Food News reported in February 2013 that SPC Ardmona’s troubles had led to a 22 per cent drop in earnings for its parent company CCA.

SPC Ardmona said it is currently half way through what it termed a three-year “business transformation strategy”, which aims to address issues of efficiency and waste reduction throughout the entire business. The Company said it plans to work with key retailers, who it believes do want to support Australian fruit growers.

“We are not competing on a level playing field against the overseas sourced private label products,” said Peter Kelly, Managing Director SPC Ardmona. “We are competing against products from countries that have considerably lower labour and production costs and arguably lower quality standards than we have in Australia,” he said.

“A more than 50 per cent appreciation in the Australian dollar in the past four years has made cheap imported food even cheaper and has also severely impacted on our export markets,” Mr Kelly said.

SPC Ardmona said market share of imported private label canned fruit had grown to 58 per cent, while SPC Ardmona canned fruit share had declined to 33 per cent and the Company’s export market volumes had declined by 90 per cent in the past five years.

According to data from market research organisation Nielsen, published in ‘Retail World Grocery Guide 2012’, SPC Ardmona had 50.2 per cent value share and 40.8 per cent volume share of the shelf-stable fruit category in 2012. The grocery guide showed that in 2012, private label products had 29.1 per cent value share in the category, and 39.8 per cent volume share.

The Company said it would be seeking temporary tariff protection relief from the Australian Government to assist the fruit processing industry during the period of the strong Australian dollar, and more effectively market its brands to consumers with “stronger Australian grown and Australian made messages”.

Speaking to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s (ABC) AM radio program, John Wilson, spokesperson for industry body Fruit Growers’ Victoria, agreed that the high Australian dollar was a big challenge for the sector.

“A combination of the collapse of global markets in North America and Europe and an oversupply of canned fruit; at the same time our Australian dollar purchasing power increased,” Mr Wilson told the ABC program. “And unfortunately the cannery can’t meet that competition on a short-term turnaround,” he said.

Mr Wilson said the fruit growing sector needed a “restructure program, a restructure package that has a transition and an exit component in it for the health of fruit growing right across the district”.

Labelling Laws – Still waiting for action while consumers confused and local manufacturers and growers are undermined

When the Senate Enquiry into “Truth in Labelling” was undertaken in October 2009 there was some hope that Australians would finally see where their products come from even though the label says “Made in Australia”, even though at the time most industry groups rejected the concept. While the Senate has rejected “Made in Australia” the key issue then and now in AUSBUY’s submission was the need for Country of Origin. This has now been recognised. Now the work really begins. Let’s hope our industries and our farmers can hold on long enough.

Labels are complicated. They are also costly to replace for manufacturers already under cost pressure. While discussions have been consumer focused, the suppliers also need to be considered, especially those locally owned businesses whose ethic is to source from Australian farmers and suppliers whenever possible. Of course Australia does not produce every ingredient, but then not all ingredients are cited on a tin of pears or more complicated sauces etc.  “Made in Australia” infers products are sourced here. Local and imported confuse the issue further.

Change cannot be avoided as the source of our foods are increasingly complicated by our Free Trade Agreements, high dollar and virtual open door policy to imports. To their credit Coles and Woolworths manage “Country of origin” reasonably well on their private label brands. They may be replacing locally made and grown foods because our businesses cannot compete on price against cheap imports, but at least consumers have a choice to avoid imported foods, even if they are made here because the label tells them the source.

Some consumers in sheer frustration use bar codes when they shop. The problem is the 93 barcode for Australia means the company has a registered office here and may be foreign owned and imported.

In the meantime AUSBUY has attended many meetings and discussions where the various sides had their say (or did not). Many meetings were chaired with a pre-determined outcome, so discussion appeared to be superfluous. Or the issues were so complex that Senators where clearly bamboozled having had no industry experience of the complexities. No need for this as the experts were in the room, time was limited and an outcome expected.

As AUSBUY has highlighted in the past, if the intent is misplaced then the action is misplaced, and without a clear objective it is easy to sustain inertia when confusion reigns. Few see the bigger picture or acknowledge the consequences. You guessed it, after more than four years the announcement this week on “made in Australia” is no action as the Senate rejected. The changes do not go far enough. We can only hope it does not take another four years to get an outcome that benefits Australia.

The food sector is the largest manufacturing sector we have left where there is a spread of businesses across our communities and regions sourcing from local farmers. Many small businesses drive the innovation in the food sector. These are the businesses that “value-add’ our commodities – but we have stopped talking about “value adding” and control of the supply chain and key industries.

In the past four years we have seen multinationals take over more local brands, farms bought because on farm income has been in decline for decades, commodity industries such as dairy, fruit and vegetable growers under threat, or factories close here and move off shore to sell back to us. No one has counted the cost to our manufacturers and growers as imported foods replace local produce and still carry the “Made in Australia” label as long as it meets the 51% test of substantial transformation (including packaging costs). For a country that prides itself on our agriculture we have no major global brands since Fosters was sold.

The issue is from “where”. We have signed Free Trade Agreements with countries that do not reciprocate opportunities as our exports incur tariffs (USA, EU), open our doors to countries that do not meet our standards, or imports that bring the threat of disease when we have under-resourced our gatekeepers AQIS and Bio-Security Australia. Diseases are being introduced to our once clean, green growing environment via the back door and the front door.

Ask our orange growers. We cannot take foods across state borders but import foods that do not meet our standards, yet oranges from overseas compete in the same growing season at the same price as our local produce. These activities are hidden in processed foods. At least we have “Country of Origin” on fresh produce, championed by AUSBUY over a decade ago. But again this is not policed at local and state levels, except where big supermarkets err.

Then there is the seasonality of food. If manufacturers want to sustain their production line the excuse is to import out of season. Whatever we can do to support our local manufacturers and growers and give priority to their sustainability the better. Labelling laws are important, but only part of the problems facing our essential industries. AUSBUY’s focus is on informed consumers and working with manufacturers and growers,  but then we only represent Australian owned businesses so our message is not compromised.

Australian Companies Institute Limited (AUSBUY) is a not for profit organisation representing Australian owned businesses exclusively since 1991. Interviews can be arranged.  Lynne Wilkinson 02 9437 5455 0418 3149 23

Clash of Concerns over Foreign Ownership of Australian Agriculture

AUSBUY‘s comment on the story on ABC’s The World Today –

Good to see discussion about this issue. AUSBUY raised the issue of Food Security over four years ago, now it is fashionable to talk about it. AUSBUY raised a petition asking for a national interest test early in 2012 based on the need for a national interest test. New Zealand stopped the sale of 8 dairy farms to the Chinese because it did not meet the national interest test. We have no mechanisms.

Ownership and investment are important issues. Put simply only Australian majority ownership means the decisions, profits, jobs, skills and reinvestment stay here. As a country we do not have a strategic long term plan about any industry let alone the industry which helped build our wealth, based on our clean green growing environment. Over the past few decades we have allowed control beyond the farm gate of all major food commodities except rice, as overseen by the ACCC.  We have deregulated industries and made our farmer price takers not price makers. Hence on farm income has been in decline for decades matched by rising debt. Any wonder farmers are selling their land. These skills and knowledge of the land are being lost.  And there are no mechanisms in place to give priority to our owned.

All our trading partners fund their growers (average $41k compared to $4k for Australian farmers). Policies were based on the false assumption that we export most of our food, whereas we only export more than 50% of our beef, wheat and fibre. Based on this false assumption we have signed FTAs giving ready access to our markets. We have not counted the decline since 1998 (simply do not want to recognise the unintended consequences of decisions).The high AUD$ is hurting our growers and manufacturers ever  more.

Foreign owned manufacturers close factories here, set up off shore and sell back to us.  Our tax laws favour foreign interests (10% withholding tax) and FIRB thresholds mask what is really happening. Canadian Super Funds are buying our assets yet there are no mechanisms for Australians to invest in our own country.

Bill Heffernan is one of the few politicians prepared to look at this. AUSBUY has been focusing on the importance of ownership since 1991. A petition about foreign ownership was presented to Parliament in December 2012 with 55,000 signatures.  Who will pay off our rising debt? It will not be the foreign countries and companies buying our wealth creating assets.

Why You Should Donate to Australia’s Food Security NOW!

Any aware Australian will know that our farmers are under great pressure with declining on farm incomes and rising debt. Any wonder some of them are selling their farms to pay off their debt. Any wonder foreign countries are grabbing our land.

Research has not been done since 1998 showing the decline in income for our farmers. Governments do not want to know the consequences of their policies. AUSBUY together with other industry groups is asking for donations to our Food Security Research so that policy makers can see the facts they do not want to know.

Australia cannot benefit from demand for our products if we do not own the land and the distribution channels.

We are in this situation was based on a false assumption that we exported most of our food, when we only export more than 50% of our beef, wheat and fibre. Now we import more fresh food than we export in direct competition to our own and many of our exports are foreign owned.  In addition our arable land is under great pressure from non farm industries and urban expansion.

The plight of our dairy farmers highlights that even if you are among the most productive, innovative and efficient in the world, market forces based on price do not help especially as competitors and the supply chain dictate the farm gate price. They are expected to compete with countries that long ago recognised their need for food security and have policies which support their own, and with a retail market that says price is the reason people buy. At what cost to our future and the product quality and integrity of our Australian owned and grown brands.

In Australia on farm income gets around 4% subsidy in the countries buying our assets it is closer to 41% that is more than ten times more than our farmers. This is an issue our policy makers should be accountable for in the coming elections. Please donate today and give our farmers some hope. Their hope is out hope.

The Asian Century, on Whose Terms?

If we are to engage with the Asian Century then we need to take account of how we engage on an equal basis. The level playing field which we talk about only displays our naivety as these countries have thousands of years negotiating on the behalf of their leaders. The “for sale” sign we have on the assets we have sold or are currently selling to these countries include our wealth creating strategic assets: our land, businesses and our mines. This is in a region where we are one of the few democracies.

What benefit does Australia derive if they own the products and resources which once benefited Australia, and are now controlled here by the buyers offshore? What benefit do we get if foreign interests or a sovereign state pay less tax than our businesses? What benefit do we get if the standards required of our producers and manufacturers are not required of imports? What benefit do we get if our gatekeepers are under resourced and we expose our businesses to dumping and poor quality imports? What benefit do we get if we give priority to foreign interests, locking our own people out with high interest rates?

Interesting that the Indonesians are threatening to reduce foreign ownership of their resources to 20% and that is called nationalism. Yet we call our people xenophobic if we question why we are selling control of our wealth creating assets to other countries. Who really benefits from selling our assets and not giving priority to Australia? Who will pay off our national debt?

Real nation building happens when you engage our Australian wealth creators operating here and have a long term strategic plan that includes all our people not just a few.

Let’s hope the exuberance of yet another Government announcement does not leave us yet again paying dearly with our future prosperity and rising debt. We will believe the future vision for this country when priority is given to our owned.

Sign the petition asking for a moratorium on the sale of our assets until we have a national interest test.

Frozen Food From India

Following is a note sent to the local Federal representative. This was sent to us by a Friend of AUSBUY in response to frozen vegetables being sold in WA from India and packaging which “inferred” it was Australian. These are the kinds of products which need to pass scrutiny by Australian authorities before they can be sold here in competition with our own farmers. Such products would not be allowed to be sold in countries such as the USA as their Federal Government maintains tight controls over what enters the country in competition to its farmers

It has come to my attention that a company using the name “Midwest Frozen Foods” has slipped under the radar and is selling frozen foods that although they are made in India has a map of WA and a kangaroo on their packaging. This I believe is misleading advertising and may fool a lot of people into buying what they think comes from WA.

Also I have come across tin products from New Zealand that actually have a kangaroo or a map of Australia on them and although the product labelling declares them to be Product of New Zealand the actual product comes from China.

I think it is time the Government took a stand on misleading labelling and made it law that country of origin be clearly printed on the front of all food packaging.

We need to make sure Australia has a viable food resource within its borders and bring in stricter laws regarding imported food.

Sustainable Farming for a Sustainable City


Sustainable Farming for a Sustainable City

Do you really care and wonder about where your food is coming from now and tomorrow?

NSW Farmers and the Sydney Food Fairness Alliance are co-hosting an open forum for farmers, landholders and the Public in the Sydney Basin


Join us to discuss how city sustainability depends on farming sustainability and farmer resilience

Where:   Richmond Club, Cnr of East Market and Francis Streets, Richmond

Date:      Monday September 24th, 2012

Time:      6:30pm for 7.00pm start – 9.00pm finish

Tea/Coffee & sandwiches provided with a Gold Coin donation




Peter Andrews (OAM): Sustainable healthy water supply for the metropolitan region and agriculture

Murray Spicer (NSW DPI Horticulture Program Leader): How important is Sydney Basin agriculture to Sydney?

Maarten Stapper (Agricultural Consultant): Agroecological farming in healthy ecosystems for sustainable urban food provisioning

Lynne Wilkinson (Ausbuy): Food Security in the context of Controls Beyond the Farm Gate  – Who Will Feed Us?

Why the rush to sell our farms?

It is a little like the song “I am just a girl (boy) who can’t say no”, as the decisions made by the Treasurer and the FIRB are getting us into a “terrible fix*” They say yes to any foreign interest who wants to buy our land and businesses. Cubbie Station holds as much water as Sydney Harbour and is an important part of the Darling system. There is no guarantee they will use the land for its current purpose, or that Australia will benefit.

The Chinese and Japanese are looking long term and we naively think very short term. The Japanese already own 54% of our dairy industry and 45% of our brewing and when China buys it is their government buying. The countries buying our land do not reciprocate the privilege. They are laughing all the way to our banks while our national debt rises.

Despite the fact that the National Food Plan submissions are due at the end of September it appears that the grab for instant gratification and the sale of important strategic wealth creating assets which Australians have built and invested in are a priority for governments and continues unabated. Is the National Food Plan another sham letting people have their say when they will not be heard?

It is not in our national interest for the control of key strategic agricultural assets and distribution beyond the farm gate to be controlled by foreign interests. Our tax laws favour foreign interests with only 10% withholding tax. Foreign countries and companies are prepared to buy our assets to secure their own wealth, while we allow the control of all food commodities beyond the farm gate and now our land to be sold to foreign interests. Any wonder farmers are forced to sell their land as their on-farm incomes decline. We are not saying no to foreign investment, but it needs to be on our terms and we need to identify and keep control of wealth creating assets. Those who say otherwise are not representing Australia’s interests.

AUSBUY has a petition calling for a moratorium on the sale of our land and wealth creating assets until such times as we have a national interest test. There is no national strategic planning and hence a piece- meal approach to anyone who brings their cheque book.

Go to and click on the Time to Wake Banner to sign the petition.


*Oklahoma by Roger and Hammerstein