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Australian Food and Grocery Council CEO Tanya Barden says food and beverage manufacturers are disappointed with the amount of funding coming from the federal government’s Modern Manufacturing Initiative.

“The pace at getting the dollars rolled out has been slower than anticipated and the level of funding coming forward has been lower than anticipated,” Barden told the Senate inquiry into the state of Australian manufacturing on 8 December.

“Currently we have capital investment of around $3 billion per annum. We need to grow that to about $7.5 billion per annum and yet recently we’ve seen $33m granted through one element of the Modern Manufacturing Strategy,” she said.

Barden said the sector needs investment in new product development, sustainable packaging, advanced manufacturing, and digital technologies; and this could be realised with a coordinated approach to regulation, skills development, and industry support to encourage investment across all levels of government.

She explained that food and grocery manufacturing differed from other parts of the sector because it was consumer facing, fast-moving, and faced significant consumer, government, and community expectations around health and wellness and sustainability.

“There are significant changes that need to be made in those areas as well as providing greater transparency of information to consumers about where products are made, how they’re made, how they’re sourced and that requires a lot more digital technology through supply chains,” Barden said.

“Covid has also highlighted just how crucial it is to have that sovereign capability in manufacturing.

“There’s been significant disruptions to global supply chains, to local production and to distribution and as a result of that it’s been essential that we’ve been able to ramp up production locally.”

Barden told the senate committee that the National Skills Commission State of Australia’s Skills 2021 report showed that food and grocery manufacturing recorded the strongest employment growth of all Australian manufacturing sectors over the past 20 years, while jobs in 11 of the 15 sectors declined.

This year, the AFGC outlined its vision to see the value of Australian food and grocery manufacturing double to $250 billion by 2030 in its report, Sustaining Australia: Food and Grocery Manufacturing 2030.

It recommended steps to secure the future of the sector including a new grants program to support the uptake of advanced manufacturing technologies, the development of new, sustainable packaging formats and equipment, and the creation of a high-tech training centre to give workers the skills to use advanced manufacturing equipment and emerging digital technologies.

For the full senate committee hearing transcript click here.

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