HIGH transport costs and freight delays are hindering North East food producers in their bid to be competitive, a forum heard yesterday.
About 20 representatives of food enterprises ranging from honey to olive producers met in Wangaratta as part of a “working lunch” organised by the member for Indi Cathy McGowan.
Mount Buffalo Olives owner Elisa Bertuch said transport could be costly for food manu- facturers.
“One of the things we spoke about was the cost and reliability of transport in not only getting products out to markets but also getting raw goods in,” she said.
Alpine Valleys Vignerons president Micheal Freudenstein said the isolation of regional communities could make it difficult to get products out into the wider marketplace.
“There are contract issues with private couriers who say they will deliver in three days in the contract, but then you find out that is three days to their metropolitan warehouse,” he said.
“So by the time it gets to a regional area, it has taken a week or even longer.”
While barriers to small business were identified, most participants at the forum agreed Ms McGowan had taken the first step in overcoming some of the issues.
“One of the ways to resolve some of the issues is in the breaking down of the three tiers of government to get rid of compliance issues and bring a level playing field to the industry because food is a nationwide product,” Mr Freudenstein said.
“To do this, Cathy is our starting point.”
Ms McGowan spent two hours talking to business owners and said she would be taking their feedback to the federal government.
“I need to be a strong voice for this sector and I need to take what they say to Canberra,” she said.
“The main thing I want to emphasise is the idea that one size doesn’t fit all.
“Just because something works in Sydney or Melbourne doesn’t mean it will work in regional areas.”