Blog: Katy AskewAustralian growers slam Woolworths

Katy Askew | 13 June 2014

Australia's fruit and vegetable industry is struggling to keep its collective head above water as it is squeezed by competition from cheap imports and pricing pressure in the deflationary environment of the Australia's grocery market.

In this situation, the sector - and Australian policy makers - have identified increasing exports as a lifeline to keep Australian fruit and veg growers afloat.

It is perhaps unsurprising, then, that when Woolworths backed out of an arrangement to show potential export customers around its distribution facility this week, produce makers hit out at the country's largest supermarket group.

"This churlish action by Woolworths is not in the national interest given that both industry and the Australian government have identified expanding export markets as a crucial priority for the future growth of our industry," said Ausveg CEO Richard Mulcahy.

The industry body represents 9,000 growers throughout Australia.

Mulcahy continued: "Woolworths are certainly not winning friends in the Australian vegetable industry, nor with customers by taking such a belligerent attitude on matters of such critical importance to our nation."

The supermarket has also come under fire for asking produce suppliers to make contributions to fund its latest marketing campaign with celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, which is promoting healthy eating and fruit and veg consumption. 

Ausveg said it has written to the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission to request an investigation be launched into Woolworths treatment of suppliers. The body also urged Oliver to "intervene" and ask the supermarket to return the money to "struggling farmers".

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