Farm­ers grill crop mon­i­tors

Tablelands Advertiser - - LIFESTYLE - Bron­wyn Wheatcroft

MA­REEBA Shire farm­ers have ques­tioned food safety con­sul­tants about the re­li­a­bil­ity of mon­i­tor­ing pro­cesses as they seek to en­sure their pro­duce passes health cri­te­ria.

Har­monised Aus­tralian Re­tailer Pro­duce Scheme (HARPS) held a pub­lic in­for­ma­tion ses­sion at the Ma­reeba Leagues Club on Wednesday to in­form grow­ers of the ex­pected changes in the fu­ture and to clear up con­fu­sion.

Con­sul­ta­tion with re­tail­ers started in 2012 and HARPS was launched last year.

The in­for­ma­tion ses­sion looked at food safety, le­gal and trade com­pli­ance.

HARPS is an in­dus­try ini­tialised scheme de­vel­oped by the ma­jor gro­cery re­tail­ers. It is a risk-based ap­proach to man­ag­ing food safety is­sues spe­cific to the hor­ti­cul­ture in­dus­try.

Their aim is to elim­i­nate mul­ti­ple au­dits by har­mon­is­ing the re­quire­ments of the ma­jor gro­cery re­tail­ers. They also hope to fur­ther de­velop food safety au­di­tor com­pe­tency to se­cure a ca­pa­ble, ro­bust and re­li­able sys­tem.

Dur­ing the meet­ing they used this year’s fa­tal rock­melon lis­te­ria out­break as an ex­am­ple of what can go wrong with food safety.

Ma­reeba farmer Matthew Fealy at­tended the meet­ing and voiced his con­cerns that HARPS had been work­ing on their scheme for six years yet there was still a ma­jor is­sue with rock­mel­ons.

He said their sys­tem didn’t work in that in­stance and it isn’t ready but it is be­ing pushed on farm­ers.

Mr Fealy asked HARPS con­sul­tant Tris­tan Kitch­ener and con­sul­tant Belinda Mil­lard how farm­ers were ex­pected to have con­fi­dence that they would get it right in the fu­ture.

Mrs Mil­lard said the scheme was not a magic wand and they still had a long way to go.

“We have the re­tail­ers (Coles, Wool­worths, Aldi, Costco Met­cash) aligned,” she said.

“This scheme will cut down du­pli­cate re­quire­ments.

“While there are many things we need to get right... we have made some progress.”

Ma­reeba Fruit and Veg­etable Grow­ers As­so­ci­a­tion pres­i­dent Joe Moro said the meet­ing went well but there needs to be more clar­i­fi­ca­tion.

“I think there are still a lot of an­swers to be given,” he said.

“We will need to en­gage with grow­ers about the is­sues.”

He said there was some con­cerns about du­pli­ca­tion f pro­cesses and costs.

“There is still not enough clar­ity. Famers are re­quired to im­ple­ment the pro­gram by Jan­uary 1, 2019,” he said.

“We are ask­ing for about an­other year (to get fully or­gan­ised). I think it is an area where more time might be ap­pro­pri­ate. There needs to be more clar­ity.”

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