Aussie agricultural sector being undermined by frauds: Report
Aussie agricultural sector being undermined by frauds: Report

SYDNEY — Australia’s agricultural industries are losing hundreds of millions of dollars annually due to fraudsters within the sectors, according to a new report.

The report, issued by the Deakin University on Monday, said that producers of premium wines, seafood and meats such as beef and veal are among those most at risk from unethical practices aimed at tricking consumers into buying poor quality products.

Deakin University’s Center for Regional and Rural Futures director Professor Rebecca Lester said the damage to the nation’s hard-earned reputation as a source of quality foods and other primary products, including timber and wool, could cost between 700 million to 1.3 billion Australian dollars (about 500 million to 926 million U.S. dollars) annually in lost trade.

The researchers said the crisis can be attributed to dishonest activities such as the dilution of products, deliberate mislabelling, secretly using inferior substitutes and concealing flaws.

“Many producers are not even aware of the risk once their product leaves the farm or boat, but it may be costing them dearly,” Lester said. “Industry must arm itself with better information about what to look for and strategies to respond if confronted by fraudulent activity.”

Lester said that guaranteeing a product’s authentic origins could be costly but concentrating on the early detection and prevention of frauds, was better than “responding to problems once they occur”.

“Technology has come a long way and avenues now exist to guarantee product authenticity through analytical testing,” she said.

Among the arsenal of hi-tech procedures are next-generation DNA sequencing and “lab-on-a-chip” (LOC) devices, which Lester said offered great potential for rapid onsite analysis for many products.

The Deakin report was commissioned by AgriFutures Australia, an organization designed to protect the prosperity of the nation’s rural industries.

AgriFutures Australia national rural issues manager Georgie Townsend said the report showed it was ultimately the producers and businesses along the supply chain who lost out to the frauds due to lower returns and damage to their brand reputation.

“Farmers can’t combat this issue alone. A coordinated supply chain approach is needed if we are to overcome the billion-dollar problem and stamp out fraudulent practices,” Townsend said

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