South Australia’s stone fruit industries have been influenced by a wide array of legislation at a national and state level. Much of this was initiated shortly after WW1, and played an important role through the 1950s and 1960s. With significant deregulation through the 1990s, there is now a limited range of legislation controlling or influencing stone fruit industries.
Following is a brief overview of major legislation that has influenced South Australia’s stone fruit industries.
Australian Dried Fruit Legislation
There was an array of Commonwealth legislation put in place in 1924 to provide greater market stability and collect levies. However this only applied to dried vine fruit (currant, sultana, and lexias).
In the late 1920s, a Dried Fruits Processing Committee was established under management of the CSIRO. It comprised representation from Federal Department of Commerce and Agriculture, CSIRO Division of Food Preservation, and representatives from each state with dried fruit legislation. The Dried Fruits Processing Committee coordinated guidelines for industry regulation, new initiatives for industry development, and new product development. Some examples of their activities included:
- Addressing high sulphur content in export dried fruits – 1930.
- Development of rapid tests for sulphur content of dried fruits.
- Increasing sulphur content standards – these required gazetting by state Health Departments – 1950.
- Promoting adoption of dehydrators in place of sun drying for improved quality – 1951.
- Adoption of consumer packs with a higher moisture content.
The Australian dried fruit industry (both tree and vine fruits) was also served by federal legislation such as the Dried Fruits Research Act 1971 and the Dried Fruits Levy Act 1971. This legislation enabled the collection of levies from industry, matching these with Commonwealth funds for research and development activities. These funds were administered by the Dried Fruits Research Committee.
The Dried Fruits Research Act 1971 was repealed in October 1985. New horticulture wide legislation was established for collection and managing research and development. This included the following Acts and organisations:
- Horticulture Research & Development Corporation (Horticulture Research and Development Act 1987)
- Horticulture Australia Limited (Horticulture Marketing and Research and Development Act 2000)
- The industry owned organisation Horticulture Innovation Australia took over these responsibilities from Horticulture Australia Ltd in late 2014.
Canned Fruit Marketing Acts
The Australian canned fruit industry has been influenced by a wide range of legislation relating to exporting, marketing, subsidies, collection of levies, and establishment of various organisations and committees during the 20th century.
The first of these was the Canned Fruits Export Control Act 1926 which established the Canned Fruit Control Board. This board licensed exporters, and coordinated the transport and sale of canned fruit. Associated with this was the Canned Fruit Bounty Act 1924 which provided subsidies to fruit canners and growers (peach apricot, pear, pineapple).
Marketing legislation was upgraded with the introduction of the Canned Fruit Marketing Act 1979 enabling the formation of the Australian Canned Fruits Corporation and of the Australian Canned Fruits Advisory Committee. This legislation enabled:
- Purchase or acquisition of canned fruits.
- Sale and disposal of canned fruits using a network of agents nationally and internationally.
- Management of handling, storage, protection (insurance), transfer, shipment and sale of canned fruits.
- Promotion of the sale and consumption of canned fruits in Australia and overseas.
The Australian Canned Fruits Corporation established minimum prices and quotas for canned fruits, and used equalisation pools for determining payments, including advance payments to canners. The Canned Fruit Marketing Act ceased operation in December 1988.
Various sugar concessional rebates were provided for canners to foster growth of the Australian sugar industry. To be eligible for these concessions, canners had to purchase fruit from growers at not less than minimum prices. The sugar concessions were complex and varied from year to year, being linked to world prices of sugar. In 1958, a rebate of $4.40/t was provided for sugar used, with a concession of $38-40/t for the sugar content of canned fruit exported. This effectively reduced sugar costs from approximately $171/t to $128/t (in 1958). Some concessions were also provided for purchase of cans to promote Australian production of tin plated steel.
From time to time, special grants and loans were provided to South Australian canneries by the Commonwealth. These grants were facilitated by special state legislation (eg South Australia Grant (Fruit Canneries) No 127 of 1971 which provided grants to Jon Preserving Co-op Ltd and Riverland Fruit Products Co-op Ltd).
Tariffs on imported canned fruits were abolished following the Inquiry on Fruit and Fruit Products conducted by the Industries Assistance Commission in 1986.
SA Dried Fruits Acts
The expansion of fruit production to meet military requirements during WW1 and the establishment of numerous Soldier Settlement Schemes in River Murray irrigation districts after WW1 resulted in a dramatic expansion of dried fruit production (also includes dried vine fruit). By 1923, there was significant over supply of dried fruits, crashing prices to very low levels.
Members of the SA Dried Fruits Board, December 1955.
Standing: R.J. Ward, C.W. Till, A.G. Strickland C.B.E. M.Agric.Sci (Deputy Chairman) and P.N. Fleming (Secretary)
Seated: J.R. Jemison, F.M. McMillan (Chairman), and The Hon A.W. Christian MP.
Source: PIRSA file 104001
To facilitate more orderly marketing of dried fruits, the South Australian Parliament passed the initial SA Dried Fruits Act in 1924 which established the SA Dried Fruits Board in 1925. Similar dried fruit legislation and boards were also established in Victoria (1925), Western Australia (1926) and New South Wales (1927). South Australian dried fruits legislation greatly influenced the structure, operation and marketing of the state’s dried stone fruit industries until its repeal in 2003.
The South Australian Dried Fruits Act provided for the formation of the Dried Fruits Board to coordinate industry activities between growers, packers and marketers. The initial SA Dried Fruits Act 1924 had extremely wide ranging powers. It enabled the SA Dried Fruits Board to contract the purchase and sale of dried fruits, open wholesale and retail shops, provide depots for storage or distribution, and to fix maximum prices and regulate marketing output. It provided for registration of growers, dealers and packers, and to compulsorily acquire dried fruits in South Australia. This initial legislation was the subject of a series of High Court and Privy Council legal actions by a Berri dried fruit grower and marketeer through the late 1920s.
The SA Dried Fruits Act was subsequently upgraded in 1934, and 1993 with modification of marketing powers. The Board was made up of 5 members, a Chairman appointed by the Minister of Agriculture, two growers, a packer and a marketer. The Board employed a secretariat, with the Department of Agriculture Chief Horticulturist often acting as Deputy Chairman, and other staff attending meetings in an ex officio capacity from time to time.
The SA Dried Fruits Board was very influential on the industry through:
- Co-operating with dried fruit industry associations and boards across Australia.
- Overseeing maintenance and development of the dried fruit industry.
- Inspecting premises, facilities and equipment used for production, packing, storing and handling dried fruits.
- Collecting and collating information relevant to the dried fruit industry.
- Providing advice to improve quality of dried fruits.
- Facilitating dried fruit research.
- Promoting the consumption of dried fruits.
- Keeping registers of growers, packers and marketers, and collecting levies.
Department of Agriculture Horticulture Branch staff managed legislative processes associated with the SA Dried Fruits Acts. This includes review of the Act every 7 years, appointment processes for members and the chairman as prescribed in the Act, ensured audit of the SA Dried Fruits Board accounts, and annual reports were provided to the Minister of Agriculture for tabling in Parliament.
In 1999, a National Competition Policy review of the Dried Fruits Act 1993 was commenced. This review identified alternate ways of delivering key functions, and the Act was repealed in 2003. Assets of the SA Dried Fruits Board were transferred to the SA Dried Tree Fruits Association under a three year agreement with the Minister of Agriculture. This agreement required the preparation of a strategic plan and delivery of a range of services to South Australia’s dried tree fruit industry.
Today, production and marketing of dried fruits in South Australia is fully deregulated.