June 16, 2011
AUSVEG spokesperson Andrew White today warned of food safety concerns and the ongoing threat to the Australian vegetable industry based on data that Chinese vegetable imports have tripled over the past 10 years, and continue to represent a significant threat to the Australian vegetable industry and the community.
“Between 2000 and 2010 Chinese vegetable imports have tripled, from just over $30 million in value in 2000 to representing $96 million in value in the Australian market in 2010,” Mr White said.
“Among the vegetables we are importing into Australia from China are dried vegetables, garlic, processed tomatoes, asparagus, frozen beans, frozen sweet corn, processed potatoes, fresh, frozen and processed peas, and fresh spinach,” he said.
“Vegetable imports from China have grown threefold over the past 10 years and they represent a considerable threat to the viability of Australian growers, as they are cheap and can undercut our market due to lower labour and input costs overseas. At the same time, we can’t guarantee that the same food standards are being applied by these international suppliers.”
“There have been numerous food safety incidents with regard to Chinese vegetable production over the past few years, including exploding watermelons and whitening agents on mushrooms. The fact is that we can’t guarantee that the same quality assurance standards we value here are being applied in international markets and often, we’re not testing for them as they enter Australia.”
“At present, Australia only tests the majority of vegetables coming into Australia at the random surveillance rate of 5 per cent, which is in our view unacceptable and not commensurate with our own quality assurance practices domestically.”
AUSVEG is the National Peak Industry Body representing around 9,000 Australian vegetable and potato growers.
Mr White said that it was important that the Australian consumer knew of the risks associated with imported produce and continued to support the domestic vegetable industry and growers by buying Australia, particularly in light of unfounded commentary in recent days which had unfairly attacked the integrity of Australian chemical regulation.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), the following increases in imports from China have taken place between 2000 and 2010. These represent only a few of the increases:
- Imports of Dried Vegetables have increased from $5.87 million to $15.03 million.
- Imports of Peas (fresh or chilled) have increased from $90,676 to $4.17 million.
- Imports of Frozen Beans have increased from $54,377 to $3.12 million.
- Imports of Frozen Sweet Corn have increased from nothing to $1.55 million.
- Imports of Processed Potatoes have increased from nothing to $1.26 million.
- Imports of Frozen Vegetable Mixes have increased from $368,282 to $10.28 million.