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Issue 18

Native Plant Food Industry Peak Body Discussion Paper


This paper comes out of a discussion involving a number of key people with interests in Native Australian Food plants, hosted by RIRDC on 8-9 March 2001. During this meeting the view was expressed that a Peak Body is needed for the Native Plant Foods industry. Relevant decisions of that meeting being: 

1. The meeting resolved to move towards a peak industry body in 3 years In the interim it was decided to recommend the following steps to be followed towards that goal. 

2. That maintenance of open communication with the industry be by means of the appointment of a Convenor who will:

2.1 maintain an industry presence on the RIRDC website. This presence would have the following functions: 

* Allow the R&D Advisory Committee to report on progress of R&D and allow the industry to provide appropriate feedback.

* Allow R&D Advisory Committee to post industry research priorities 

* Co-ordinate industry viewpoints on critical issues * Provide open discussion by means of an on-line discussion board 

* Provide support for RIRDC initiatives 

2.2 orchestrate regular communications between industry representatives by means of roundtable meetings and teleconferences. 2.3 facilitate the move towards the peak industry body through the issuing of discussion papers and recommendations and organising conferences of interested parties to formalise the structure 

6. That industry priorities for immediate consideration include: 

* Environment Australia legislation relating to export of native food products - possibly through the funding of a consultancy to evaluate the impact of this legislation on the Industry. This would include an evaluation of the impact of related state-based regulations. 

* Species-specific standards. The outcomes of the Hegarty / Wills project should be developed to species-specific standards, and production and processing using the most appropriate cultivars of commercial species should be investigated. This paper considers potential roles of a proposed peak body, options for structures and options for next steps, drawing on these decisions. 

The paper also considers short term and, briefly, longer term actions and is structured to address 5 core questions: 

1. What is the current state of play of the Native Plant Food Industry(s)? 

2. Where do we want to be in 3 years time, regarding peak structures and functions? 

3. What are the immediate steps that need to be taken, that are consistent with this view? 

4. Who performs the immediate tasks including working towards an accepted peak structure? 

5. How are the immediate priorities resourced? The views expressed about roles and structures for a peak body are presented with the aims of providing a basis for further discussion, and additional (to the Canberra meeting) context for making firm decisions about more immediate issues, processes and structures. It is stressed that every aspect of industry collaboration and subsequent steps towards a possible peak body involves an iterative process, there is no blue print.

1. Current State of Play  

Current Size and Nature of the industry 

The industry is small, fragmented and in many instances, undercapitalised . Bush harvesting is the dominant means of production for most species, but cultivation is expanding. Some participants favour the production of native food by mainstream agricultural and horticultural methods whereas others prefer alternative approaches that are perceived to be more environmentally friendly than conventional methods. Native foods comprise only a part of the overall business activity for many of those involved in the industry. The gross value of the industry was estimated to be $10-12 million (including value adding) in 1995/96 (2,3). 

The gross value of the industry includes subsistence use, wild harvest, farm production, a wide range of value adding activities and a variety of end users including restaurants, retailers and other hospitality providers. The farmgate and ex-nursery gross value of production is thought to be about $5 million. Average returns across the industry are reputedly low. No current firm figures are available but the recent take-up of native food product by major supermarket chains suggests increasing customer demand.

Participation and structures

  There are approximately 500 active participants in the industry (excluding a very significant number of Aboriginal participants through the Land Councils and other groups.) Industry participants operate in all states and territories. The industry comprises: 

* wild harvesters 

* hospitality providers 

* nursery operators 

* retailers 

* commercial producers of raw produce 

* food service operators, and 

* processors of raw produce 

* tourism operators. 

They operate as single-purpose enterprises, networks, vertically integrated operations and wholesale/merchandising enterprises. Only two of these businesses have an annual turn over of more than one million dollars. Industry associations both generic and for specific crops, and co-operative ventures have been formed while some have withered. Newsletters and a magazine for the industry have appeared.

2. Where do We Want to be in 3 Years? 

Recommendation 1 from the Canberra meeting clearly expresses the expectation that there will be a Peak body in place in 3 years time, that is by 2004. 


Peak bodies are established to perform a specific role or a range of functions that cannot be effectively undertaken by a single organisation, so the functions undertaken are those that rely on cooperation and for which all parties benefit although the benefits are rarely evenly distributed. Peak bodies also provide an easy (comparatively) entry point to an industry or industry sector for individuals and organisations wishing to engage all or part of an industry. 

A peak body also serves to unify disparate entities around a common purpose. It is this latter role that has lead perhaps to discussion about establishing a Native Plant Industries peak body since a series of emerging industries and associations are in danger of pulling in different directions, inhibiting the vast potential of the industries based on native Australian plants. 

After about a decade of steady development of a series of fledgling industries and grower associations and the emergence of significant processors, the time certainly seems right for a range of collaborative functions to be undertaken that are of the sort conducted by peak bodies. A peak body will enable the Native Plant Foods Industry to grow by providing: 

* a gateway to the member industries, 

* coordinating R&D to maximise application and new product development, 

* mutual support for emerging participating industries, 

* a base for lobby and advocacy and 

* a mechanism to coordinate quality assurance practices and to set standards

3. Immediate Steps 

Next Steps to a Peak Body 

With particular reference to the decisions made by the Canberra meeting and based on the brief discussion above, the following sequence of steps is proposed as stages towards the establishment of a Native Plant Food Industries peak: 

1. Discussion papers, including this one, are circulated to the participants of the March 2001 meeting, with the proposal to establish themselves as an interim Native Plant Industries Roundtable. 

2. The March 2001 group agrees to immediate functions based on the following: 

* Coordination of Research and Development, with RIRDC 

* Establishment of a forum for exchange of information / clearing house relating to native plant foods, utilising a website 

* Negotiate a Native Plant Foods Industry presence on the RIRDC website 

* Research the detail and impacts of proposed Environment Australia legislation on the Native Plant Food Industry and lobby for change as required. 

* General lobby and advocacy of Government(s), both to reduce the impacts of adverse policies or regulation and to be pro-active in seeking more favourable government policies, practices and interventions.

3. Discussions undertaken with RIRDC and existing Industry Associations about funding the establishment of a Native Plants Clearing House, to collate relevant research papers and articles and disseminate such material. Once funds are available a call to be made for an existing association or company to undertake this role. 

4. The Canberra group meets by teleconference to discuss recommendations from this paper and follow up to other priority issues identified at the Canberra meeting 

5. RIRDC be asked to continue to bring together the group on an annual face to face basis, meeting travel and accommodation costs for 2 nights. 

6. Representatives agree to stay an extra day, at their association's expense to enable other industry issues to be discussed, separate of RIRDC. 

7. The anticipated meeting in early 2002 formally agree to establish a Native Plant Industries Roundtable, with a view to incorporating an Association by 2003 8. Ad Hoc action groups be established to work, electronically, between meetings.

4. Who Does What? 

In order to achieve the current priorities identified above, individuals need to be identified to undertake the following tasks: 

* Members of R&D Advisory Committee to RIRDC (already appointed). The role is to provide advice to RIRDC about research and development priorities for Native Plant Food Industries. 

* Communications Convener who will be responsible for enabling on-line discussion (through a website is assumed), establishing an industry presence on the RIRDC website and disseminating papers and other relevant information to the "Canberra Group" 

* The Communications Convener will be responsible for calling and setting up meetings, including at least one teleconference and negotiating with RIRDC about an annual face to face meeting 

* Facilitator of Peak Body discussion to be appointed by proposed phone conference It is suggested that these roles be endorsed and appointed through a teleconference to be held by the 31st October 2001 and be current until the anticipated face to face meeting in March 2002. A possible structure diagram is given on the next page.

Legend: Accountability Relationship Information Exchange 


Proposal 1:  

That a telephone conference of "the Canberra Group" be conducted by 30th August 2001. 

Proposal 2:  

That the Canberra Group form itself as an interim Native Plant Food Industry Roundtable until March 2002. 

Proposal 3:  

That the Canberra Group appoint a Communications Convenor and a Peak Body discussion facilitator. 

Proposal 4:  

That individual associations be asked to appoint a correspondent who will support and liaise with the Communications Convenor.

5. Resourcing Current Priorities 

1. The first step is to seek confirmation from RIRDC that they will continue to fund an annual face to face meeting of nominees of the various Native Plant Food Industry groups, including travel and up to two night accommodation per person. 

2. RIRDC will also need to be formally approached for assistance with establishing an Internet site and for access to research information and relevant articles for listing on the website. 

3. For the undertaking of non RIRDC specific work, the Interim Peak will need to find funds to meet the following tasks: 

Expenditure: (2001-02)

Design and establishment of Home Page $1500 

Home Page maintenance $5000 

Teleconferences $ 1500 

Honorarium for Convener $ 1000 

Sundries (postage etc) $ 1000 

TOTAL $10000 

4. Income will need to be raised through fees from participating bodies, grants from government departments, philanthropic trusts and RIRDC. It is suggested that initially, well established species specific industry bodies be asked to contribute $500 with other non profit participants being asked to contribute $100. Trading processors could be asked to contribute $200 each. This could raise $2,000 (based on 1 x $500, 9 x $100 and 3 x $200) RIRDC could then be approached to provide seed funds to assist the Industry to establish itself, this would require about $8,000, over and above current expenditure, including the costs of bringing the roundtable together. 

Income (2001-02) Industry Group contributions $ 2000 RIRDC $ 8000 Total $10000 The task of appointing someone to the proposed position of Communications Convener is crucial . Assuming that funding is obtained, the process of appointment should be managed by a Returning Officer who would seek expressions of interest from the members of the Canberra group. 

It is suggested that this process occur by email, providing 3 weeks for response, with nominees to provide a maximum 500 word statement supporting their interest. The nominations and statements would then be circulated, by the returning Officer, by email, to members of the Canberra group. Votes would be lodged within 2 weeks. To move this process along quickly, Jim Hill is proposed as the Returning Officer. Jim is Consultant, Post Harvest Horticulture with PIRSA Rural Solutions. He has provided advice from time to time to the Australian Quandong Industry Association, has a general interest in Native Plant Foods, but most importantly is a person of high integrity and we believe, neutral in this situation. 

Proposal 5: That the Interim peak body seek contributions for the 2001-02 financial year, based on $500 from established species specific industry groups, $100 from not for profit groups and $200 from commercial organisations 

Proposal 6: That the Interim Peak body seek funding of $8,000 from RIRDC to assist the move towards establishing the Peak

Proposal 7: The Interim convenor seek home page establishment and maintenance from a member of the participating organizations. 

Proposal 8: Jim Hill be endorsed by the Canberra meeting members as returning officer to elect an initial Communications Convenor. 

Proposal 9: That Gil Freeman and Mark Henley circulate a peak body discussion paper by 30th November 2001, with a peak body discussion facilitator to be elected subsequently Note; The views expressed above are for discussion purposes only and do not necessarily reflect the views of any organisiation 

Your comments to: Gil Freeman: gilmem@dcsi.net.au or Mark Henley: mark.henley@acm.asn.au If you don't have email - post comments to Gil:

21 Smith St, Thornbury, VIC, 3071

Index: 18

From the Editor


Pharmaceutical properties of Qld Rainforest plants

Sunrise lime dieback

Toxicity results - 'all clear' 

North Coast Co-op 

Aboriginal use of Moreton Bay Chestnut 

Growth patterns in bushfoods

Lesser known species

Peak Body

Geijera sp

Back to the future

Native bees

Vale Denise Reason

Book Reviews


Dangerous Bush Tucker


Germination Trials

Emerging crops


Geijera sp (Rutaceae) Geijera Genus

Geijera parviflora Wilga, Native Willow Small to medium ornamental tree (6-12m) from inland areas of all mainland states.Geijera is an endemic Australian genus from the Rutaceae, the same family as citrus. Limited to about five recognised species from the inland to the forests of the eastern seaboard. It has a pendulous foliage giving it some similarity to the Europen willow from a distance. The foliage sweeps on the ground, except where sheep or cattle have been grazing upon the foliage. The foliage is generally aromatic when crushed and leaves are covered in oil glands. Some types are much loved by stock, others are left alone, which appears to be related to variation in their chemical constituents. Unfortunately, this has caused this once common outback tree to become fairly rare in some areas due to stock eating young plants before they can become established. Suitable as a shade or street tree for inland areas, it is hardy and appears relatively adaptable, though a bit difficult to propagate. One of the reported uses of this species traditionally, is as a kind of `narcotic'. Leaves were baked , powdered and smoked in conjunction with other narcotic plants (species?) and apparently used in ceremonies, and reported to induce "drowsiness and drunkenness". Chewed leaves were placed in cavities to stop toothache. Leaf infusion used internally for pain relief. There appears to be a few chemo-types of this species, some containing different coumarins and essential oils. Some references for research work on different Geijera sp from Plants for Medicines, CSIRO, 1990. Terpenoid chemistry VII The structure of geijerine, M Sutherland, Aust J Chem, 1964, 17:75-91 Some extractives of Geijera salicifolia, Ritchie & Taylor, Aust J Chem,1968 21:1381-2 Geijerin: a new coumarin from the bark of Geijera salicifolia, Lahey et al, Aust J Sci Res, 1955 8:125-8 Coumarins of Geijera parviflora, Lahey et al, Aust J Chem, 1967, 20:1943-55 Alkaloids of Geijera salicifolia, Johns et al, Aust J Chem, 1966, 19:1991-4

Other references Australian Medicinal Plants, Lassak and McCarthy, Methuen, 1985.

From the Native Herb Group Geijera parvifolia Description Broad evergreen tree with a weeping habit. Leaves are long linear with entire margins. Small tubular white flower appear in late summer. Distribution Wilga is found in the dry interior of Australia. It is often cultivated around farm homesteads and as street trees in country towns Part used Leaf Constituents Essential oil - pinene, camphene, phloracetophenone dimethyl ether Coumarins Tannins Actions Sedative, hypnotic, tonic Indications Restlessness, insomnia Externally for toothache Useful beverage or "bush tea" Toxicology None cited Preparations and dosage Infusion Tinc. 1:5, 1-3 mls


Geijera parvilflora (Wilga). From Native Plants of Qld (Williams)


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