GST on fresh food would set back health, farmers’ markets

MEDIA RELEASE Date of release 5 June 2014

MR-food-gst-june14A GST tax on fresh fruit and vegetables would merely worsen Australia's chronic obesity epidemic and increase the cost of keeping people healthy, said Jane Mowbray, vice-president of the Australian City Farms & Community Gardens Network (ACFCGN).

"A fresh food tax, in the form of imposing GST on fresh food as supported by World Vision Australia CEO, Tim Costello, would simply discourage sales of fruit and vegetables and probably increase sales of cheap processed foods made from the lowest cost, lowest quality ingredients", said Ms Mowbray.

Costello's support for a GST on fresh food could be seen as his championing the sectional interests of the international development sector he represents rather than taking the wider, national view that includes health issues in Australia, like obesity and diabetes, and access to fresh food by lower income families.

"We know that excessive consumption of heavily-processed foods is linked to poor nutritional health, so if Tim Costello's reported comment about the rich eating fresh produce and the poor eating processed food is true, a fresh food tax would only entrench that undesirable situation" said Ms Mowbray.

"Entrenching and worsening this food divide is not something sensible NGO leaders or politicians would want to do as it is not in the national interest or in the interest of families".

A GST on fresh food would increase the burden on small to medium scale farmers producing for the domestic market, increasing their workload at a time that many of those producers are struggling to remain viable, said Ms Mowbray.

The tax would also be a burden for the growing number of producers supplying the increasing number of farmers' markets around the country. Through direct selling, farmer to eater, innovative farmers have been developing this new form of marketing by supplying urban people with fresh foods.

"Despite what some politicians might say, it's not only the wealthy who shop at farmers' markets", said Ms Mowbray.

"Walk around the different markets and you see that shoppers reflect the surrounding demographic of the area, affluent or less affluent.

"What sensible politician would want to throw up barriers to the further development of innovative marketing systems like farmers' markets by imposing a fresh food tax on what they sell? That simply doesn't make economic sense if you want to see this new market segment expand".

The ACFCGN is a national network of people and organisations engaged in the production of fresh foods in city and town, including food gardens in schools, and in the positive social development that emerges when people cooperate in growing some of what they eat.

For comment:

  • Jane Mowbray: M: 0438 860 954 E: nsw@communitygarden.org.au

 

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