Page 22 - Food&Drink magazine November-December 2022
P. 22

with a focus
on the future
The challenges faced by the food and beverage sector this year have been many, but Australian Food and Grocery Council CEO Tanya Barden is looking ahead.
AFGC CEO Tanya Barden says boosting investment in manufacturing is vital.
ONE way to start talking about 2022 could be to run through the challenges and pressures weathered by Australia’s food and grocery manufacturers during the year. It’s a long list and the disruption it has caused has been unprecedented.
Instead of talking about what was, however, I want to start by talking about what lies ahead for the industry.
For despite the huge challenges our food manufacturers have faced this year from Covid, flooding, global supply chain breakdowns and war-induced commodity price spikes,
there is another conversation now under way about what
it means to be resilient, prosperous and self-sufficient for a nation like Australia.
Awareness of the importance of a strong domestic food and grocery manufacturing industry is higher than it has been for many years.
The toilet paper hoarding of 2021 and the $12 lettuces of 2022 got people thinking about the supply chains that deliver everyday essential items to supermarket shelves.
It sparked new discussions about the importance of making things here in Australia. Under the previous federal government, a manufacturing priority list was created, with food and beverage one of the six key sectors nominated.
The new Labor government elected in May has also focused on the importance of sovereign capabilities, establishing a $15 billion fund to boost investment in manufacturing.
This is a vitally important discussion to have for Australia and particularly for food and grocery manufacturing – the biggest manufacturing sector in the country – because it sets the framework for what the industry needs to be in the future.
As the country faces a huge debt burden, getting the economy growing again is urgent. As global supply chains break down, the importance of resilient supply chains and a strong, reliable domestic industry have become clearer.
This year the AFGC’s State of Industry report showed the industry grew in value during 2020-21 to $133.6 billion and increased employment numbers to almost 273,000. The increase came as companies weathered the disruption wrought by
the pandemic.
Since then, the disruption
from Covid, natural disasters, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have created extreme and ongoing pressures on workforces, supply chains, production costs and, ultimately, the cost of living.
Every aspect of making food and groceries in Australia has become more expensive and
more complex. So there are more challenges ahead but the way to overcome them is to focus on the opportunities that await.
In its landmark report
Sustaining Australia: Food and Grocery Manufacturing 2030 the AFGC has presented a plan to grow the value of Australia’s food and grocery industry to $250 billion by 2030.
Even as the industry has dealt with issues ranging from workplace Covid testing
investments, such as
George Weston Foods announcing a new flour mill and other facilities worth $133 million in regional Victoria and Frucor Suntory committing to a $400 million beverage manufacturing facility in Queensland.
In 2023, the work on boosting sovereign manufacturing capabilities will continue and, with 40 per cent of the industry’s workforce in regional
 “ Food and grocery isn’t just an economic driver at the macro level – it is the lifeblood of communities all over the country.”
requirements to pallet and diesel additive shortages, the ambition of securing food and grocery manufacturing as a key future industry for Australia has not been sidelined.
The AFGC has continued to advocate for new incentives to encourage investment in domestic manufacturing capabilities and has led the development of the National Plastics Recycling Scheme (NPRS) project, an industry-led scheme for recycling soft plastic packaging.
Food manufacturers have demonstrated their commitment with new
Australia, this is important for the future of the communities outside our major cities.
Food and grocery isn’t just an economic driver at the macro level – it is the lifeblood of communities all over the country.
In summary, while the past year has once again thrown challenges at the sector – challenges that were met and overcome – it has also made clear the conversation that has to continue to ensure Australia has a resilient, future-ready and internationally competitive food and grocery manufacturing industry. ✷
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