Ausveg has expressed concern about the discovery in southwest China of almost 10,000 tonnes of toxic vegetables with excessive pesticide residues.

The horticultural group says the incident raises concerns over Australia’s increasing reliance on imported produce and the potential health implications for consumers.

While Chinese authorities have put health controls in place since the discovery, Ausveg communications manager Hugh Tobin said that it was alarming to think that other regions might be producing toxic vegetables for export.

“Australia is increasingly relying on imported produce that is unreliable in quality and is potentially harmful to our health,” he added. “Australian produce is grown under strict regulation ensuring consumer health is protected. Australian growers are struggling to compete with cheaper imported produce that may not be produced under the same stringent quality controls.

“Retailers can often purchase and sell imported produce for less than it costs to buy Australian grown vegetables. Falling wholesale prices together with rising production costs makes it difficult for Australian growers to compete, pushing them out of the industry.

“Australian-grown vegetables may be available now, but with examples such as what’s happened in China, it’s worrying to think of the implications from our increasing reliance on imported products, particularly in frozen vegetables.”

The current trade deficit in vegetables in Australia is around $300 million on an annualised basis.

“Australia has meticulous food safety regulations but we certainly can’t guarantee the same regulations are enforced internationally. For the sake of consumer safety, it’s more important than ever that consumers support Australian vegetable growers and buy Australian grown produce,” Tobin said.

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