10 Feb 2014

Hort NZ to lobby on labelling

7:33 am on 10 February 2014

The national horticulture body says it will continue to keep a close watch on moves by Australian supermarkets to remove New Zealand food products from their shelves, even though nothing has come from political talks on the issue.

The two big supermarket chains in Australia, Coles and Woolworths, are backing the Buy Australian campaign and as part of that, say they'll stop stocking New Zealand products in their house brands.

Prime Minister John Key raised the issue at a meeting with his Australian counterpart Tony Abbott last week, but was told it was a commercial decision for the supermarkets and did not breach the Closer Economic Relations (CER) free trade agreement between the two countries.

Horticulture New Zealand chief executive Peter Silcock says it's definitely not in the spirit of CER and the sector will keep lobbying on that and the wider issue of mandatory country of origin food labelling.

He says business into Australian supermarket house brands is likely to be worth tens of millions of dollars and the New Zealand horticulture industry does not like to lose any business at all.

Mr Silcock says Horticulture New Zealand will monitor the situation and it also wants an effective country of origin labelling regime in New Zealand.

He says the organisation is not advocating taking imported products off New Zealand supermarket shelves, but says products should be clearly labelled so consumers can make a choice.