the course of the inquiry, the Select Committee on Australia's Food Processing
Sector received extensive evidence from representatives across the food supply
chain. It is clear to the committee that, as a trade exposed sector,
Australia's food processing industry is challenged by the sustained strength of
the Australian dollar. Rising input costs and certain government policy
decisions, such as the introduction of a carbon tax and changes that have led
to inflexibilities in the labour market, place further pressure on participants
in the industry.
conditions facing the sector at this point in time could be described as the
perfect storm; however, this view is not shared by all. Treasury take the view
that the wider economy is in the midst of a structural change and that this
change is impacting many sectors, not just food processing. This
"structural change" could be less euphemistically described as an
industry phase out.
this report, the committee was conscious that there are certain pressures to
which the industry will need to adjust and that some of these pressures are not
unique to the food processing sector. It is clear that some participants have
recognised the need to adjust and to identify new opportunities, but there is a
need for the sector, as a whole, to embrace this approach.
uniqueness of the sector, however, does present significant opportunities.
Australia is well placed to help fulfil the expected increase in demand for
high quality food associated with the rising middle class in Asia.
To respond to
the sector's challenges and to take advantage of its opportunities, what is
most necessary is a multifaceted response, from both industry and government,
which is coordinated and collaborative. The challenges within the food
processing sector are complex and have flow on effects throughout the supply
chain. The sector's response needs to focus on innovation and working out how
best to compete, while government has a responsibility to support this by
ensuring the appropriate policy settings are in place. Similarly, the
opportunities available to the sector can be maximised by both industry and
government being proactive.
takes the view that its report should inform the development of the National Food
Plan (particularly in the areas of research and development, access to export markets,
biosecurity and food labelling, quality and safety) which will set out
Australia's integrated food policy. However, some of the evidence the committee
received suggests broader changes are required. In particular, the committee
notes the urgent need for a review of the effectiveness of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010
with a view to striking a better balance between the consumer and competitors
and ensuring market participants enjoy a level playing field. The committee
also suggests that broader reforms are required to help attract and retain suitable
and qualified workers.
sincerely thanks all those who participated in, and contributed to, its
inquiry. The evidence provided has been invaluable in informing the committee
and shaping its recommendations. The committee now calls on the government to
carefully consider the evidence it has gathered and to act on its recommendations.
the Hon Richard Colbeck
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