Amber light for PrimeSafe review

Amber light for PrimeSafe review


Agribusiness
Tammi Jonas with butcher Jass Murphy, in the butchery at Eganstown.

Tammi Jonas with butcher Jass Murphy, in the butchery at Eganstown.

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VICTORIAN small producers have cautiously welcomed a review into the state's meat and seafood regulator, PrimeSafe.

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VICTORIAN small producers have cautiously welcomed a review into the state's meat and seafood regulator, PrimeSafe.

Agriculture Minister Jaala Pulford has promised the PrimeSafe board would review concerns raised by small producers and butchers, about the authorities approach to meat safety.

Ms Pulford said it was expected producers and processors, who had raised concerns, would be given the opportunity to speak to the board.

But Jonai Farms' Tammi Jonas, who has had products deemed unsafe and destroyed, said while the review was welcome, producers needed more detail as to how it would be carried out.

"If they are going to give us a say, if they are going to listen to producers, butchers and abattoirs, telling them what it's like to work with PrimeSafe, who is going to listen to what we say?" Ms Jonas said.

"I guess I would like to know – is the Minister going to read all of this?

"One thing, none of us understand clearly, is what authority does the Minister have over PrimeSafe?"

She said regulators often started to believe they were the only ones with the authority, responsibility and power to ensure everybody was safe.

"In the case of PrimeSafe, that culture has gone so far, they are thinking they are responsible for things they are not, they shouldn't be and don't need to be," Ms Jonas said.

"I am pretty sure the act doesn't support the overreach in some of the things they have been doing," she said.

Victorian Farmers Market Association president Wayne Shields said PrimeSafe had caused his members "a lot of issues."

He welcomed a review of PrimeSafe's way of dealing with small producers and processors.

"They are all telling me the same story – PrimeSafe are not very accommodating," Mr Shields said.

"PrimeSafe has to realise a lot of these producers are just coming into the industry and are being asked to jump through the same hoops the big guys are; they are throwing up a lot of road blocks.

"These big producers wouldn't be around, if they had to jump through those hoops the small producers have to jump through."

And Sandy Leatham, of Benalla's Hook and Spoon, said she was no longer registered with PrimeSafe, as they were "incredibly difficulty to work with."

She said she now ran a cooking school, which was licenced by the local council.

She said she was concerned the last inquiry into food safety, carried out by the previous government more than two years ago, appeared to have been ignored.

"What happened to the last inquiry ?" Ms Leatham said.

"It's high time there was an inquiry, but producers won't speak openly, unless they feel safe.

"A lot of the smaller butchers have stopped making hams and doing additional things and I think it's going to be a while before they consider doing them again.

"Confidence will take a little while to build again, basically," she said.

Eat Local, Eat Wild's Carolyn Suggate, of Bonnie Doon, said one answer was to introduce a "small producer's licence."

The Suggates run Angus cattle and Witipoll sheep, under organic conditions.

"We have been selling our meat directly to our growing customer base," Ms Suggate said.

"But due to concerns about PrimeSafe – and friends being bullied by them – we have changed our business model and sadly now only supply directly to an organic butcher," she said.

"If we want to have local food security – we need to have laws and regulations that enable this to be done, small scale producers should not have to be a butcher shop to trade."

She said the small producers licence would outline rules and regulations, which would have to be followed.

"In organics, we have small producer certification – if your business is under a certain amount, there is a different set of parameters to the larger producers," Ms Suggate said.

"They should transfer that into the meat industry, it doesn't matter if it is volume or a monetary level, you would still have specific guidelines."

Ms Suggate said Victoria should also follow the lead of NSW, in licencing mobile butchers, so meat could be killed and dressed on property.

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