Australia’s leading horticultural body AUSVEG has expressed deep concern at the growing incidence of counterfeit Australian produce, particularly in China.
A recent report estimated that for every 1kg of commodities exported from Australia to China, 5kg is being counterfeited by unscrupulous operators.
It follows concerns raised earlier this year about the widespread practice, which poses a serious threat to Australia’s reputation as producer of clean, green and safe produce.
“AUSVEG shares the views of Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Agriculture Senator Richard Colbeck that unsafe foreign produce being labelled as Australian and sold in overseas markets poses a significant threat to the reputations of both our growers and their produce,” said AUSVEG National Manager – Export Development, Michael Coote.
“AUSVEG is deeply concerned to see unscrupulous foreign operators taking advantage of the impeccable reputation of Australian produce and attempting to pass their own inferior and potentially unsafe product off as Australian in international markets.”
Food safety incident
Mr Coote said Australia’s stellar reputation for quality products is one of its major selling points.
The last thing Australia needs is a food safety incident involving counterfeit produce, he said.
“It is imperative that the relevant international authorities act now before Australian vegetable and potato exporters become the unwitting victims of these appalling scams.”
Earlier this year, AUSVEG, which represents Australia’s 9,000 vegetable and potato growers, raised concerns that counterfeit Australian produce was being found not just in Asia, but also in parts of the Middle East.
“We have presented that information to the Department of Agriculture and are waiting on a detailed response, Mr Coote said.
“It’s bad enough that widespread examples of counterfeit Australian produce are being found in the domestic market in China, but recent examples have suggested dodgy operators in that country are also attempting to sell their bogus wares as far afield as the Middle East.”
Mr Coote said the situation is particularly worrying in light of ongoing efforts to open up export markets for Australian growers.
“It is deeply unfair that Australian growers are being forced to contend with these counterfeit products when they already struggle to compete in many international markets on cost alone, he said.
“Allowing this situation to continue could undo much of the hard work by industry and individual growers to establish a foothold in export markets, and all steps must be taken to stamp out these insidious practices.”