Fruit Juice Australia News
AUSTRALIAN CITRUS GROWERS News
Fri 29 June 2007
Growers push for produce levy
The Federal Government will be asked to impose a marketing levy on imported fresh produce.
Avocados Australia Chief Executive Officer, Antony Allen, who is co-ordinating the push by an alliance of horticulture industry representatives, said the request had come from growers. Mr Allen said growers were tired of funding domestic promotional campaigns to increase fruit and vegetable consumption while the Government opened the door to more imports and gave them a “free ride”. Mr Allen said 12 horticulture industry groups, including Australian Citrus Growers (ACG), had shown support for a marketing levy on imports which was equivalent to that paid by Australian growers.
“A lot of growers have asked for this,” he said. “The United States (US) does the same thing on a range of products including avocados, beef, pork and mushrooms which pay a marketing and research and development levy. We’re only working on marketing, which is where we can see direct benefits for imports.”
Mr Allen said Australian growers contributed $1.6 million a year to generic avocado promotions through a compulsory levy of 4.5 cents per kilogram, or 24.75 cents a tray. Based on current volumes, he said a matching levy on avocados imported from New Zealand would reap $400,000 to $500,000 for the promotions pot.
“We’re not talking about the equivalent of tariffs, which is what the bureaucrats immediately think,” Mr Allen said. “It won’t be easy, but we’re not breaking new ground. The Government is not completely against it, it just needs warming up.”
The group is developing a policy position to be put to the Federal Government in the next month.
ACG Chief Executive Officer, Judith Damiani said an initial report from the group had been received, but a decision was yet to be made on whether the citrus industry would benefit from pursuing an equivalent levy on imported fruit. “There is a strong feeling from growers who want a level playing field,” she said. But is it worthwhile? There are the practical issues such as the cost of collecting the levy, how it would be used and how the importers would be involved. Ms Damiani said Australian citrus growers paid a levy of 75 cents a tonne on fresh oranges, but imposing this levy on the 15,000t of fruit that was imported each year would gather just $11,250.
It had been suggested that applying the levy to imported orange juice as a fresh fruit equivalent – which works out at 600,000t of oranges imported as juice – would provide a more significant revenue boost in the order of $450,000.
But Ms Damiani said such a plan would face a major hurdle with the World Trade Organization, which did not regard juice as a “like product” because the fruit had been processed. Ms Damiani said she was less confident than Mr Allen of a positive response from the Government, given that the Federal Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Minister, Peter McGauran had rejected the idea at several forums. The latest was the ACG annual conference in April where, answering a question from the floor, he gave a definitive “no”.
“ACG, however, will continue to pursue the collection of an equivalent marketing levy on imported fresh produce on principle,” Ms Damiani said.
Mr McGauran’s stance had not changed when he told Australian Citrus News that the Government had no plans to introduce a marketing levy on imported fresh produce. “If we introduced such a levy, it’s highly likely, if not certain, there would be retaliatory action from some of our key export markets,” he said. “Australia needs to be consistent. The Government is currently lobbying against the US 2007 Farm Bill that recommends a levy on imported dairy products to be introduced. If we were to introduce our own levy on imports, we would risk retaliation across a range of agricultural products.”
Mr McGauran said existing marketing levies should be used to promote Australian produce to the greatest extent possible – backed up by Country of Origin labelling.
“The introduction of the new ‘Australian Grown’ logo in June will further encourage consumers to buy locally grown horticultural products,” he said.
Back to the news archive