08 June 2023
The Business Council of Co-operatives and Mutuals today said the offshoring of Australia’s food processing capability must be reversed.
A high-level meeting of the sector is being held in the New South Wales regional hub of Lismore to address the issue.
“The last three decades have seen more and more of our food processing offshored and a steady decline in Australian owned agricultural supply chains,” said BCCM CEO Melina Morrison.
“We want to reverse that trend, which is why we’re holding a national agricultural co-operatives roundtable in Lismore today,” she said. “Securing access to food staples and preserving onshore food processing creates local employment.”
There are more than 200 agricultural co-ops in Australia and more than 24,000 family farm owners.
Nearly all areas of agriculture are being represented at today’s event: from fisheries, beef and dairy to alternative protein, horticultural, tanneries and meat processing.
“Food supply represents a national security risk, especially in times of crisis,” said Ms Morrison. “We’re bringing co-ops from across the nation together to work on these issues and increase awareness of the vital role co-ops have played for centuries in regional and rural Australia”
The Northern Rivers of New South Wales are the home of co-operatives such as local anchor businesses Norco and Casino Food Co-op and, combined, generate regional economic turnover of $1.5 billion and 3,000 direct jobs.
Today’s National Agricultural Roundtable is also covering issues including workforce availability, housing, supply chains, risk and insurance, cyber security, farmer wellbeing, social care and a farmer-owned brand.
“Co-ops and mutual businesses are very often on the front line of economic and social crises, as well as natural disasters,” said Ms Morrison. “And this is where their unique business model comes into its own.”
“During the COVID pandemic and recent flood disasters we have seen how it pays to co-operate in a crisis,” she added.
The BCCM is the national peak body representing Australia’s $34.4 billion co-operative and mutual sector.