Saturday, June 26, 2010

So how'd you like THEM apples?

Gosh, I've had an insanely busy few weeks. I picked up a new client who wanted a website for her own business and wants me to build 3 more for her clients. Stupidly I'd quoted a fixed price thinking her site would be about ten hours' worth. It's been about 30. Maybe more. She's wanted change after change. I could get nasty and slug her for more money but firstly I suspect she's like me - a one person company trying to make ends meet - and secondly I need her on side as she can bring a lot more work my way. So I've had her and her over the top website as well as my regular clients this month.

But that's not what this post is about. I saw an ad on TV last night that struck a chord with me. I don't watch much commercial TV. I hate the ads. But this one made me laugh as well as made me think.

You see, we've started to import fruit and vegetables from China. Now this is Australia. We are the lucky country. We have the perfect climate for growing all the fruit and veg we need. However, our government has seen fit to undermine our own farmers and do trade deals to keep China onside. Chinese farming, let me tell you, ain't the greatest. They use chemicals long since banned in the western world to keep bugs and diseases at bay. They use night soil (ie human poo) as a fertiliser. Chinese-grown garlic, for instance, is grown in night soil then chemically bleached and treated with heaven knows what else before it hits our shores.

Of course, Chinese fruit and veg is cheap for the consumer to buy, despite an horrendous carbon footprint as it travels here, because labour costs are so much cheaper in China. Australian farmers are having trouble competing - see this article for more. There has been a lot about this in the news over the last year or so, and consumers are becoming more savvy about buying local products, even if they do cost a little more.

The latest offering from China is apples. Farmers in Batlow, one of this country's premium apple growing districts, are despairing. Already they have a glut of apples despite selling country wide to supermarkets and other vendors. The whole town is an apple economy. It relies on apple sales to survive. Now the Chinese are going to bring in apples and the future of Batlow looks as bleak as the situation in Mildura, once the country's orange and citrus capital, now suffering as a result of imported oranges and orange pulp/juice. Last year farmers in Mildura ploughed hundreds of healthy trees into the ground because they couldn't sell the fruit. It was heartbreaking. We can import fruit in but we're not savvy enough to export it, it seems.

I do get cross at this government. I know we have to have trade deals with other nations. However, by importing fresh food which we are perfectly capable of growing here we are undermining our own rural industries. The Chinese textile industry (again, another industry which loves chemicals; formaldehyde to keep those shirts looking starched, anyone?) has seen the words "Made in Australia" just about disappear from our clothing shops. We can't compete. I'm damned if I want to see the same thing happen with the food I put in my mouth.

Anyway, back to the Apple ad. I hope it hits the hearts of the viewers. I hope people don't eventually become complacent and buy the imported fruit because it's $1 a kilo cheaper than locally grown. The economies of the Western world rely too heavily on China as it is. Now we have a new Prime Minister who doesn't speak Mandarin (unlike Krudd) she might listen to the growing dissent of the populace for imported Chinese food.