Despite positive news that the ailing company behind Rosella is likely to continue trading while a buyer is sought, Australia’s leading food production lobby has issued a stark warning that more support is needed from the government in the face of cheap food imports.
Last week, Gourmet Food Holdings, owner of Rosella Foods, Pitango and Waterwheel, was placed into receivership, putting 275 jobs in jeopardy across New South Wales, Victoria and Auckland, New Zealand. At the time, the receivers said that the workers’ future employment could not be guaranteed.
However, Jim Sarantinos, a partner of Ferrier Hodgson, Gourmet’s receiver, has since stated that he is confident that the businesses will be able to continue trading at least in the short-term.
“Given the level of interest in the business among potential buyers, I have an increasing degree of confidence that the group has a future,” he said. “A sale is the key to the long-term future of the business.”
Sarantinos speculated that support from customers and suppliers had led him to anticipate that the group would remain a going concern, although he made clear that continuing support would be vital for the future of the business.
So far, he has received almost 100 expressions of interest from potential buyers, who were considering buying all or part of the business.
Although Gourmet is in dire shape, it is likely that all staff will be paid in full, regardless of the outcome of receivership, Sarantinos said.
Meanwhile, AusVeg, the national industry body representing 9,000 Australian vegetable and potato growers, said the fate of Rosella was deeply troubling for the industry, and is the latest in a long line of failures among food companies.
“The loss of yet another food processor could have large ramifications for the Australian food production sector, which is already struggling as a result of the high dollar and cheap processed food products being imported from overseas,” said Hugh Gurney, an AusVeg spokesman.
“The past 18 months have seen the collapse or closure of a number of prominent vegetable growing and processing operations in Australia and we hope that this fate can be avoided with Rosella.”
He said that AusVeg was keen to work with the federal government to ensure greater support for local food production.
“Without support Australia may lose the ability to grow and process food in the future, placing food security at risk,” added Gurney.
"It is shocking to think of a food industry in Australia without a classic Australian brand such as Rosella, and action is desperately required to reverse this trend before all of our food is produced overseas," Gurney said.
Editor's note: Is Gourmet Food Holdings ripe for a buy-out? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.