Australia’s vegetable crops are being out sold by cheaper imports as the value of the industry falls, according to the peak body for vegetable growers.
The entire agricultural industry grew by $2.6 billion in 2014/15, according to new ABS data, with strong gains in sorghum crops, which are primarily used in livestock feed.
But the vegetable sector contracted by almost five per cent, while canola, cotton, rice, wheat and barley also suffered.
An extremely dry season may explain some of the drops but cheaper imports were definitely playing a role, AUSVEG economist Andrew Kruup said.
“What we know is the import costs for foreign countries are a lot lower than the domestic market. So the prices can also be a lot lower,” Mr Kruup told AAP.
AUSVEG says vegetable imports grew by seven per cent over last financial year.
Mr Kruup said even if the bad harvest had impacted volumes, rising imports could cause ongoing damage to the market.
“The vegetable industry is of great importance to the country … it’s all about the sustainability of the future of the country,” Mr Kruup said.
Italy, China and the US exported nearly 200,000 tonnes of vegetables to Australia last financial year and although Australia does export a significant amount of produce itself, Mr Kruup said the high price often scares buyers away.
“What we need to do is continue the Australian brand as some of the best in the world and convince consumers that Australian produce is the best and it is worthwhile purchasing,” Mr Kruup said.