Thursday, May 26, 2022

Industry responds to Australia Post’s perishable food ban

The food and beverage industry have responded to Australia Post’s decision to stop delivering perishable food items from 30 June.

According to Food South Australia CEO Catherine Sayer, the decision will add “significant pressure” to food and beverage producers already affected by Covid-19, and “negatively impact” a sector that is a key contributor to the Australian economy.

“It is incredibly frustrating to be faced with the announcement of this decision without any opportunity for industry consultation or the chance to work together to find workable solutions,” says Ms Sayer.

Food SA, says Ms Sayer, is well aware that consistency and reliability of delivery has become an “increasingly significant issue” for producers sending goods through Australia Post.

“The producers are doing their best to ensure products are well-packed, but the inconsistency of delivery has become a serious issue,” she says.

“We all know there’s a problem here, but just announcing cessation of the service with barely two months warning isn’t addressing that problem, it is just penalising an industry that is critically important to the Australian economy because no-one has found a better way to manage it yet.”

A ‘crushing blow’ to small business

The Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman Bruce Billson has called on Australia Post to defer its plans, saying this would be a “crushing blow” to small business producers.

Mr Billson says Australia Post’s decision to cease delivery of various perishable goods from June 30 is a self-imposed deadline that could be delayed to work through its concerns, to support small business food producers.

“Given Australia Post has 80% share of the total delivery market, this abrupt decision could prove to be devastating to those small business food producers who rely on this essential postage service,” he says.

“So many small businesses moved to selling their products online as a result of the Covid crisis. They need some additional time to consider what options they have to fulfil their orders.

“We strongly encourage Australia Post to consider the impact this will have on their small business customers and to work with regulators to find a way to continue this essential service.

“Australia Post says the carriage of perishable food requirements differ state-by-state however there has been a national Food Regulation Agreement in place since 2000.”

Discussions needed

Ms Sayer says Food SA would welcome the opportunity to work with Australia Post to find a solution.

“The upturn in online ordering since the pandemic hit has been enormous, and it has helped a lot of small and medium sized businesses survive,” she says.

“It’s now an established habit for many consumers, and they often deliberately seek out their favourite brands to purchase online, knowing they are directly supporting jobs and livelihoods.

“That support has been absolutely essential over the last year, especially for regional businesses and communities.”

Ms Sayer adds: “E-commerce is a vital sales channel for all sorts of products and increasingly important for the Australian food and beverage industry as well as an income stream for Australia Post. If we are offered an opportunity to work together to develop a solution, businesses, Australia Post and the Australian economy can all benefit.”

Similarly, Mr Billson says his office has “reached out” to Australia Post and the state small business commissioners, who have all expressed their willingness to facilitate discussions with industry regulators, to help resolve any issues Australia Post is experiencing across the delivery network.

“It is crucial to support small businesses as they work to recover from an incredibly challenging 12 months,” he says.

“Part of that is ensuring essential services such as postage of goods are both readily available and affordable to these affected small businesses.”

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