Federal Agriculture Minister, Tony Burke, must release overdue studies related to the future of Australia’s processing vegetable industry in light of McCain Foods’ decision to close its vegetable processing plant in Smithton.

The Coalition Government launched Veg Vision 2020 in 2006, aimed squarely at doubling the current value of fresh, processed and packaged Australian vegetables by 2020.

As part of this comprehensive vegetable industry strategy, 2-year-long, extensive and specific studies to examining input costs, including climate change costs, were begun in 2007 and due by June 2009 (Veg Vision Action 2.4.1).

They were suppose to also explore the social, economic and environmental impacts of vegetable production.

Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and Tasmanian Liberal Senator Richard Colbeck said these critical Veg Vision 2020 studies examined issues directly related to the McCain Foods’ plant closure in Tasmania.

“The Smithton vegetable processing plant will see almost 200 jobs lost at the plant, but, even worse, as many as 100 vegetable growers and their hundreds of employees are now very unsure about their futures,” Senator Colbeck said.

“When in Government, the Coalition committed to seeing through with the outcomes of the industry driven Veg Vision 2020 plan, helping to sustain Australia’s vegetable industry.

“But the Rudd Labor Government appears to have dropped the ball on Veg Vision.

“Minister Burke must immediately release these Veg Vision studies and show the vegetable industry what findings were made. In addition, Minister Burke must outline which recommendations from the studies have been implemented or considered by the Government.

“It is abundantly clear the Rudd Government has failed to implement adequate policies to give confidence to the vegetable processing sector with McCain Foods now moving major operations and employment offshore.

“It demonstrates, yet again, the Rudd Labor Government, is not focused on assisting and growing Australian agriculture.”
SENATOR THE HON RICHARD COLBECK Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Senator for Tasmania