STATISTICS from the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences has reported a 16% jump in vegetable imports to Australia for the 2011-12 period.
AUSVEG, a peak vegetable lobby group, said such an increase, from $786m to $908m, was hurting local growers and could see many leave the industry.
The more we import the more we lose our capacity to produce food for ourselves and we lose our market place.
"I've spoken to growers who are planning to get out of the industry within the next 12 months as rising input costs and competition from abroad force them to sell their produce at slim margins," AUSVEG spokesperson Hugh Gurney said to Kondinin Group magazine.
Federal farmer Dave Forrest grows a wide range of vegetables from kale, lettuce, spinach to okra, on his 12ha property which supplies Mullumbimby Farmers' markets and the Lismore Organic Markets.
As an agricultural teacher at Wollongbar TAFE for the past 30 years he said the increase in imported food was a concerning trend for consumers.
"There are plenty of risks associated with importing vegetables from other countries," he said.
"These risks include biosecurity, economics, environment and social issues.
"The more we import the more we lose our capacity to produce food for ourselves and we lose our market place."
As a founding member of the Lismore Organic Markets Mr Forrest knows the value of fresh produce and cutting down food miles.
"We did a shopping basket comparison with fruit and vegetables grown locally and sold at the market compared to those imported to supermarkets," he said.
"It worked out the locally grown shopping basket had travelled 450km and the imported basket had travelled 16,500km."
Mr Forrest said a continued reliance on imported vegetables would take money out of the economy as well.
"For every dollar earned by a farmer, this generates seven dollars in the community," he said.
"If the food is imported then only about two dollars is generated."
Biosecurity issues include the introduction of diseases.
"There is concern that potatoes from New Zealand are coming in with zebra chip," Mr Forrest said of the disease that causes dark stripes to appear in the tubers.
He said imports didn't work for farmers and consumers, only the middle men.
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