The importation of processed fruit and vegetables is now worth $1.5 billion a year, a rise of almost 60 per cent over seven years, an analysis of federal government data shows.
Imports are now so prevalent, and exports of processed fruits and vegetables under such threat, that a quarter of growers are going broke, according to the latest analysis by the industry body AusVeg. In the past two years, the local food processing industry has shed 1127 jobs and closed five plants.
A fundamental shift in Australia's ability to process its own food has been revealed, raising concerns about dependence on foreign supply chains, pressure on regional communities and the flooding of fresh food markets as processors, many owned by multinational outfits, move their operations offshore to use cheap labour in low-cost factories.
Australians overwhelmingly eat locally grown fresh fruit and vegetables and the country's large meat, dairy, oilseeds, wine and sugar exports make it, overall, a net exporter. But Australia recently became a net importer of processed food."
Read the rest of the article in yesterday's Sydney Morning Herald here.
Image: "Farmer's Market" by imager2112