HIGH-profile South Australian businessmen, Glenn Cooper, has demanded supermarkets devote dedicated aisles to Australian-made food.
He has demanded supermarkets devote dedicated aisles to Australian-made food to make it easier for consumers to buy local.
The chairman of Australia's biggest independent brewer, Coopers, wants laws to compel supermarkets to set aside a minimum quota of floor space for Australian-made food, which would help the nation's farmers survive in the face of cheap imports.
"It's not realistic for busy shoppers to read every label to see its country of origin before you put it in your trolley," Mr Cooper told the Sunday Mail from the Riverland, where he met with the region's growers as part of filming for Channel 7's Out Of The Blue program.
"So I think they (supermarkets) should be forced to have a certain amount of locally grown content and that it should appear in a clearly defined area designated for Australian-made products only.
"That may mean two milk areas, two butter areas but at least customers, when they choose something from that designated area, know they are buying Australian-made products," he said.
Mr Cooper, speaking in his role as deputy chairman of the Australian Made, Australian Grown campaign group, was confident his plan would not drive up shopping bills.
"Say, for example, it was 30-odd per cent," he said.
"Well, supermarkets may already have that level of Australian content of food as part of their normal stock but it's just not clearly defined as an area."
"Hopefully, enough people will get behind it to give some sort of leg up to our farmers who are, in many areas, being clobbered by imports.
"I've been told about a Mallee onion grower getting 4c/kg for his crop. These guys are continually under pressure to match cheaper import prices." Mr Cooper said he was not afraid to advocate for some level of protection for local industries.
"What is wrong with protecting our own industry to a certain degree?" he said. "I don't see anything wrong with that and most people would support it too, but our politicians, for some reason, don't want to."
His call for a greater representation of Australian-made food has been backed by the state's largest independent grocery retailer Roger Drake, who said he would consider rolling out such an initiative at 38 stores in South Australia.
"The plan might decrease supermarket margins but it shouldn't increase prices," he said. "We've got to keep our farmers and manufacturing alive and the way we're going with the chains bringing in goods from overseas we won't have any manufacturers or farmers in Australia left."
Ingrid Just, spokeswoman for consumer watchdog Choice, said the organisation supported providing clearer information to help shoppers choose Australian products.
"Consumers would like, where possible, to choose Australian products to support local growers," Ms Just said.
"Consumers are certainly keen to understand where their food is from and it is important for that to be clearly on the label."
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