Nice try SPC

By Janette Woodhouse
Monday, 03 February, 2014

You know, I don’t blame CCA/SPC for trying to score $25 million in federal funding plus a further $25 mil from the Victorian government. After all, what company wouldn’t like an extra $50 million? Cadbury in Hobart has been promised $16 million and the car industry has received billions - this makes $25 million for SPC Ardmona’s appeal sound cheap.

Also, SPC has a great story to tell - the last fruit cannery in Australia, struggling farmers looking at ploughing their fruit into the ground, a country town dependent on the cannery for jobs … This is a good story and comes with great images to twist the heart of the viewing public.

But, is this the best way the government can support the food industry?

I am not privy to the details that CCA/SPC presented to the government but CCA Group Managing Director Terry Davis’s comment - “This was to be invested in best-in-class technology for both new product development and for efficiency gains to enable the transformation of the production facility in the Goulburn Valley into a modern, high-tech food company, utilising clean, green Australian-grown fruit and vegetables.” - is not enough to convince me to give the company $25 million.

As a ‘baby boomer’ I grew up with canned fruit and packet custard for dessert, as did nearly everyone else. However, the 1950s are long gone and I have never served this culinary staple to my children. In truth, most of us can’t remember when we last bought a can of fruit.

This is the real problem facing SPC Ardmona. It is no good producing the best or the only canned fruit made in Australia if no one is buying it. To be successful you have to have a marketable commodity. The basic tenet of setting up a business is to have something to sell that people genuinely want to buy.

I am sure that there are lots of entrepreneurs out there who have great ideas and pilot launches of new products and could use a hand to launch their product, and I would rather the government spend its money on these than giving it to SPC for “new product development”. If SPC hasn’t been looking at its market forecasts and developing products that consumers want to buy until now, I can’t imagine how they think $25 million will suddenly make them innovative.

I wish SPC every success with its plans - even without the government funding, $90 million from CCA will fund a lot of efficiency gains. I also want to see the Australian fruit processing sector flourish, hopefully with some new and innovative products. This doesn’t mean throwing out the baby with the bathwater - some of us are married to old baby boomers who still put canned fruit on their Weet-Bix every morning.

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