Food making an economic ‘powerhouse’, says Food & Grocery Council

Food Making An Economic ‘Powerhouse Says Food And Grocery Council

August 13, 2019

You may not realise it but the Tim Tams you nibble on in front of the TV once the kids are in bed are made in the western suburbs of Sydney, the Cheerios your kids eat (or spill) are made at Wahgunyah in north east Victoria, and the Don footy franks are produced at Castlemaine on the Victorian goldfields.

These are just three examples of the goods made by the nation’s biggest manufacturing sector, the food and grocery manufacturing industry, which makes goods generating annual turnover of more than $130 billion per year.

But the local industry is concerned about the stiff challenges it faces including rising energy costs, rising costs due to drought, and rising costs of imported ingredients due to the weaker Australian dollar.

The substantial cost pressure coincides with the significant focus among retailers on keeping prices down for consumers.

“There’s been enormous pressure on the sector,” said Tanya Barden, chief executive officer of the Australian Food and Grocery Council.

The industry is about to release a series of reports outlining its economic contribution across Australia, highlighting the contribution it makes to employment, taxes paid and local expenditure.

The food and grocery industry is a sector that touches peoples’ lives every day.  Tanya Barden, chief executive of the Australian Food and Grocery Council

The first report, to be released today, examines the contribution of the food and grocery manufacturing industry across four federal electorates in northern Victoria.

It says the industry in northern Victoria produced goods that generated $9.24 billion in revenue last year, while employing more than 14,200 people, or more than 61 per cent of the region’s manufacturing workforce.

It doesn’t have the profile of the once substantial but now departed car making industry, but food making is a significant part of the Australian economy.

“The food and grocery industry is a sector that touches peoples’ lives every day. We consume the products every meal, we use them in our house, we use them for personal care, but we don’t often think about the significant economic contribution that it makes,” Ms Barden said.

“Our share of total manufacturing in Australia is growing, because while some other manufacturing sectors are going into decline we’re managing to be resilient. But there are some risks and challenges and if we don’t get those policy settings right, then there is a risk of losing some of this manufacturing and the jobs with it,” she said.

Ms Barden said exports offered the industry great potential, with about $32 billion of the industry’s total $131 billion annual turnover generated via exports.

“That is where the growth opportunity lies. So we often hear about growth potential for Australia’s clean and green products into Asia, and being able to maintain that manufacturing presence here also gives us that opportunity to be able to springboard then into these growing export markets,” she said.

Will Ursell, managing director of Don Smallgoods, said Food Manufacturing was “a vital industry in regional Victoria.

Don employs 1,500 people in Victoria, 1,300 in Castlemaine of which over 1,100 are front line workers”.

“Food manufacturers employing people in our region is a big part of why centres like Castlemaine are thriving communities.”

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