Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Premium food scheme makes producers edgy

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Premium food scheme makes producers edgy



A MOVE to protect SA’s premium foods by giving them special accreditation labels has left food businesses deeply wary of high costs and too much red tape, for no particular benefit.

Food Marketing Minister John Rau gave few details when he announced last week that an Australia-first scheme was being considered to give SA products European-style regional labelling to certify their origins.

Mr Rau said the idea had grown from his discussions with “leading figures in South Australia’s premium food industry. He made the media announcement at the Adelaide Central Market in the company of TV chef Simon Bryant and vineyard owner Duncan McGillivray.

Appellation control is the legal framework of the international wine industry.

However, Food SA chief executive Catherine Barnet said local businesses were concerned the costs of joining any appellation scheme could outweigh the possible marketing benefits.

“It could be a good thing but the devil will be in the detail. We won’t be supportive of it if it will be a greater cost to small business,” Ms Barnet told Indaily.

Mr Rau said proper consultation would begin next month seeking feedback on the value, size and scope of such a scheme, which he said would add value for producers.

“We want to be in a position where consumers in South Australia, and around the world for that matter, of our products know when they buy something with a certification stamp on it – the approved, appellation control stamp – they know with absolute confidence the product they are buying is 100 per cent from that region,” Mr Rau said.

But Ms Barnet said the state didn’t have the depth to support strict regional appellation systems such as the ones in Europe.

“We are very interested in the level to which it goes and the compliance surrounding that,” she said.

“It is a matter of where the line is drawn. A true appellation scheme in Europe means a producer grows the feed for the chooks that are slaughtered in the region,” she said.

“A system that allowed no external supply that really comes from the ground up would be an unworkable situation.”

Ms Barnet said SA did not have a “hero” food, such as the champagne of France, that would be unique to an Adelaide region.

She said the scheme would suit some producers but her concern was for the businesses that it didn’t.

“I’d be interested to see the net result of economic impact and how many businesses it will benefit and how many will lose.”

Fleurieu Food Group chair Rachel McMillan said the Government had shown great foresight with the scheme.

“It will be a complicated process but it will benefit all local food producers and also be great for the consumer.”

Ms McMillan, whose business Scoop SA sells regional produce wholesale, said producers would need to be able to choose whether to participate in the scheme.

“It’s something that will need to be developed. It would be hard to penalise people for not being able to source something locally.”

She hoped the Government would subsidise the scheme and that any initial costs would likely be offset by being able to ask for a premium price.

“I think the consumer is increasingly aware of regionality, particularly the tourist dollar.

“There will be the people who buy produce locally and don’t want to see an increase in price, but this scheme will be aiming at a different market.”

She said the only people who wouldn’t benefit would be producers that were mislabelling their products.

In making the announcement, Mr Rau said SA’s premium food industry had “come of age”.

“Our premium regional foods are the equal of any in the world – it’s time we protected them with the same vigour as do the Italians and the French,” he said.

“As well as informing consumers, this scheme will protect valuable regional names – such as the ‘Barossa’, ‘McLaren Vale’ and ‘Kangaroo Island’ – from free-riding exploitation by businesses outside of these regions.”

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