Junee Licorice and Chocolate Factory is one of many regional producers that now has a significant and growing part of their business facing uncertainty after Australia Post announced a ban on perishable food.
From June 30, the government-owned mail corporation will no longer allow postage of items such as meats and seafood, dairy, eggs, frozen meals, fresh meal kits, smallgoods and fruit and vegetables.
Junee factory general manager Rhiannon Druce said she was still trying to figure out how the business would be affected after hiring staff specifically to pack the 5000 to 10,000 deliveries they send every year by Australia Post.
"We do understand that chocolate does have desirable temperature levels but our product is insulation-wrapped and express posted and worst-case scenario is that it arrives melted and the customer can then contact us and we can sort it out," she said.
"We are trying to figure it out as Australia Post has not given us a definition of whether we will fall into the new prohibited goods category for perishables.
"Not being able to send out stuff Australia-wide would strongly affect our business and being located rurally, you don't really have the alternative options of couriers or transport companies as a placement."
An Australia Post spokesperson said the decision had been made "due to the complex food safety and regulatory requirements differing across states and territories".
"We understand the impact of this decision on many producers and we are currently working with our customers and industry regulators to determine a path forward," the spokesperson said.
"This includes meeting with food safety regulators and health authorities to discuss the regulations imposed on Australia Post.
"The carriage of perishable food requirements differ by state and include complex requirements on vehicle type, site and vehicle registration, licence maintenance, staff training and audit requirements."
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Business NSW Murray-Riverina regional manager Anthony McFarlane said Australia Post's decision seemed counterproductive after producers had been encouraged to use online orders to help their businesses survive during the pandemic.
"It does seem a backwards step at a time where these businesses have had to pivot and Australia Post's decision makes post-pandemic business difficult once again," he said.
"It's important to have clarity around the definition of perishable items to give certainty to operators."
Mr McFarlane said that if different states' health regulations were to blame, then there needed to be nationally consistent laws to allow regional producers to keep selling online via Australia Post.
Australia Post's own report released last month, Inside Australian Online Shopping, found that online sales were up more than 57 per cent last year with "food and liquor" products seeing the most growth of 77 per cent compared to 2019.
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