New Zealand’s commercial fruit and vegetable growers’ association has branded as ridiculous the latest claims by the Australian vegetable industry group, Ausveg, that Kiwi food manufacturers are bombarding their country with sub-standard frozen vegetables.
The comments comes after Ausveg claimed that produce grown in China had later been packaged or modified in New Zealand before being sent on to Australia. The fact that the label announced “Made in New Zealand from local and imported ingredients” was central to Ausveg’s criticism.
Room for confusion
“It certainly is very confusing for [Australian] consumers, who feel that they're getting product from New Zealand which actually may have originated in the fields of China,” the Australian group’s Hugh Gurney told ABC radio.
“When you're getting frozen product and when there's laws—country of origin labelling laws—which are confusing as they currently are, they don't really know what they're getting and this is a major problem.”
Horticulture New Zealand said that Ausveg’s comments had been designed to scare Australian customers into buying locally grown product.
“This is blatant protectionist scaremongering. It is just another example of Australian sour grapes,” said HortNZ’s chief executive, Peter Silcock.
“Last week it was beetroot, this week it is frozen vegetables. Australian growers need to stop complaining about competition and start getting better at what they do.”
The vast majority of frozen vegetable product that goes from New Zealand to Australia is grown in New Zealand.
No laws broken
“It is also entirely legal for frozen products from China, or any other country, to be imported into New Zealand or Australia, processed and then exported elsewhere.
“We could walk through the aisles of any Australian supermarket and find dozens of examples of products which have this labelling, which tells you nothing about the origin of the product,” Silcock added.
New Zealand’s Ministry for Primary Industries has confirmed that any vegetable product that meets New Zealand standards is clear to be sold in Australia. New Zealand consumer and food laws only require truth in labelling but not a country of origin, according to the ministry.