Australia should follow Britain’s lead and put in place a plan to source government-procured food from local suppliers and producers, said AusVeg, the national peak industry body for Australian vegetable and potato growers.
David Cameron, the British prime minister, announced this week that from 2017, the British government will buy fresh, locally sourced food where possible, under a new plan for public procurement.
An important step
“The UK has taken an important step by committing to procure goods from local sources, which will without doubt benefit thousands of farmers in the United Kingdom,” said Andrew White of AusVeg.
“Australian vegetable growers and processors could potentially realise the same benefits if our governments followed suit and put in place its own plan and a local benefits test to source from local suppliers.
“We believe there is more that could be done and getting better information about the current situation in regards to the existing level of local sourcing across all commonwealth, state and territory agencies would be a sensible place to start.”
A recent public inquiry examined the current rules for Australian goods and services procured by commonwealth government departments and agencies, finding that the rules should take into account the impact of the government’s procurement decisions on communities and on the broader economy.
The investigating committee recommended last week that the finance department develop a test to provide a greater level of understanding regarding the quantity of Australian goods and services currently procured by the commonwealth government, with concerns that local business registration alone is not sufficient grounds to determine whether goods are manufactured in Australia.
“With the inquiry acknowledging that there is scope for greater sourcing of local goods and services by the government, it is important that Australian producers are recognised when it comes to future food procurement standards set by the commonwealth,” said White.
“Government procurement of Australian-grown vegetables could provide a significant boost for the industry, particularly in the vegetable processing sector.
“However, we need a balanced procurement policy that ensures Australian taxpayers receive the best value for money, while supporting local farmers and fully appreciating the wider domestic economic benefits that will result from sourcing food locally.”