'Berry good' legislation looks a step closer

NEW LAWS: Coast berry farmers played a role in shaping potential future labelling legislation.
NEW LAWS: Coast berry farmers played a role in shaping potential future labelling legislation. Brett Wortman

IT'S A boost to our region's growers that will be 'berry' well received.

The Country of Origin Bill ensuring Australian food producers are well recognised on supermarket products looks likely to move a step closer to fruition.

Fairfax MP Ted O'Brien spoke on the Bill in Parliament yesterday and it was expected to pass the House of Representatives either late last night or today.

While it would still need to pass the Senate, the Bill would be a significant benefit to local producers who would receive recognition on new food labelling, with country of origin and what portion of the product each country accounted for to be displayed on new labelling.

Mr O'Brien said local berry producers had been influential in the push for the legislation, referencing the input of a number of key players including Real Food Festival director Julie Shelton and innovator Tania Hubbard during a number of discussions.

"It was at these round tables where the most meaningful contributions were made due to intellectual giants of the Sunshine Coast food industry like Julie Shelton and innovators such as Tania Hubbard," Mr O'Brien told the House of Representatives.

Ms Shelton said new labelling laws were needed to ensure a high-quality food and agribusiness sector.

"My main excitement for producers and consumers is around the transparency issue. It will be really clear where the food is coming from and what's more exciting is that this provides a platform for regional place of origin labelling too," Ms Shelton said.

Accounting for about 80% of Queensland's strawberry crop, Coast strawberry farmers produce about 50 million punnets of strawberries and employ up to 8000 pickers each season.

Mr O'Brien said they'd played an important role in smoothing out any issues during the transition period.

"As we end this season we have stock ready for next year which is really important," strawberry grower Di West said, hopeful the laws would pass quickly.

"We've been waiting for this legislation to order punnets with the new labels for the following season."

The proposed labels include a bar graph showing where the content originated and what percentage is Australian.

Topics:  food and agribusiness food and agribusiness network primary producer produce sunshine coast

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