Australia’s government needs to place more emphasis on the horticulture trade, said John Brent.
“Australia recently sent 114 officials to Copenhagen for the Climate Change Summit yet they have shunned this key international trade event,” he said.
Fruit Logistica, which took place in Berlin last week, is the world’s largest fresh produce trade fair, this year bringing in 2,302 exhibitors from 71 countries, and an estimated 50,000 visitors from 125 countries.
“The government have shown disregard for the most critical trade event for the vegetable industry at a time when the Australian market is being flooded with vegetable imports,” said Mr Brent in a statement.
“The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade were extended an invitation but showed little interest in what is a crucial event for our industry.
“The government was happy to rush through the new Horticulture Industry Award 2010 which will make it increasingly difficult for growers to compete with countries such as China and New Zealand. But when it comes to supporting the industry at a key trade event they are nowhere to be seen.”
Australia’s vegetable trade deficit has rocketed in recent years; in 2008/09 the trade deficit in vegetables was four times the level in 2004/05. Exports fell 1.6 per cent while imports rose 80 per cent over the four-year period.
“By ignoring events of this kind, the government is passing up important new trade opportunities while countries such as Chile, Spain and Egypt, which had significant presences at the event, took full advantage,” said Mr Brent.