DURING this year (and part of last) there has been much talk about Australia becoming the food bowl of the highly populated countries in Asia.
It makes sense; we have large areas of land on which to grow food crops, plenty of water (in good seasons) to irrigate crops and a huge resource of knowledge on how to grow crops and natural fibres for human use.
But the news announced yesterday was that hundreds of food industry jobs were at risk as the company behind iconic brands Edgell and Birds Eye considers the closure of plants in Bathurst and Devonport, Tasmania.
The US-based multinational Simplot said food manufacturing plants at these centres would shut down if they can’t become competitive. The Bathurst operation employs 167 permanent staff and the Devonport plant 158, but hundreds more are employed as casuals. The company says the Bathurst plant could close midway through next year if financial performance isn’t improved.
Bathurst is a near neighbour to those who live in Dubbo; many of our young people head there for tertiary education. The ripple effect from the loss of almost 170 permanent jobs plus the opportunity many hundreds of casual positions offer is a concern to us all in the central west.
A member of the Coalition has quickly thrust part of the blame onto federal government imposed costs like the carbon tax.
There’s a message out there somewhere. But is it too late to ask the right questions?