TWU

Growers Feel Squeeze From Supermarkets

Release date: 19/07/2015

Sunday Mail, Sophie Elsworth, 19 July 2015

Farmers around the country are getting the lowest prices in living memory for their produce and many are being driven from the land.

Imported foods, increased competition, deregulation and oversupply in some lines have hit producers hard - and many simply cannot make ends meet.
 
A Sunday Mail investigation has also found the supermarket juggernauts are pricing growers' goods at up to 10 times the amount they paid for them at the farm gate.
 
Apple grower Peter Darley, of Orange, NSW, said the economic conditions for farmers in the region were the worst he had ever seen.
 
"In some cases, farmers are getting as little as $1 to $1.50 per kilo (from wholesalers or supermarkets) and the supermarkets are selling up to $7 per kilo," he said. "This is the worst return I've ever seen on food." Mr Darley said apple growers needed to receive about $2.50/kg to cover growing, harvesting, packing and freight costs, and wages - and, if they are lucky, to make a modest profit.
 
"The returns for growers are pretty devastating," he said.
FARMERS around the country are getting the lowest prices in living memory for their produce and many are being driven from the land.
 
Imported foods, increased competition, deregulation and oversupply in some lines have hit producers hard - and many simply cannot make ends meet.
 
A Sunday Mail investigation has also found the supermarket juggernauts are pricing growers' goods at up to 10 times the amount they paid for them at the farm gate.
 
Apple grower Peter Darley, of Orange, NSW, said the economic conditions for farmers in the region were the worst he had ever seen.
 
"In some cases, farmers are getting as little as $1 to $1.50 per kilo (from wholesalers or supermarkets) and the supermarkets are selling up to $7 per kilo," he said. "This is the worst return I've ever seen on food." Mr Darley said apple growers needed to receive about $2.50/kg to cover growing, harvesting, packing and freight costs, and wages - and, if they are lucky, to make a modest profit.
 
"The returns for growers are pretty devastating," he said.

South Australian onion grower Steve Rathjen, who farms in the Murraylands, said farmers had resorted to dumping good-quality onions.
 
"It should have never happened. There's farmers that can't move the volume and the supermarkets have a lot of suppliers and we haven't got a big enough percentage of it at the moment," he said.
 
"For a grower at the moment, after packing we are getting about 30c per kilo and most of the supermarkets are selling onions around $2 per kilo."
 
The Federal Government this month announced the new role of agriculture commissioner in the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to help curb anti-competitive activities in agricultural supply chains. But with no firm start date for the position, it could be some time before farmers are given a reprieve.
 
When dairy industry deregulation was rolled out in July 2000, farmers received about 50 per cent of the retail price.
 
Now, according to Queensland's Scenic Rim Robotic Dairy's Greg Dennis, they get about 30 per cent and the consequences are dire.
 
"In the last four years in Queensland, we have lost 30 per cent of our dairy farmers and of the surviving industry 70 per cent of them cannot pay their bills every month," he said.
 
Fruit Growers Victoria Ltd chairman Gary Godwill, who grows peaches, pears and apples on his farm near Shepparton, says the concept of multi-generational farming is dying.
 
"When I look around, the average age (of farmers) is about 60. Where are the young blokes?" he said. "They're not coming - that's true of a lot of the agricultural industry."
 
Aussie Farmers Direct, which delivers from the farmgate direct to customers' doors, says the industry needs the public to buy locally produced products.
 
"The big supermarkets are very good at what they do, but the consequences of what they have been doing is the constant driving of efficiencies for lower prices and it does have an impact on the farmers," spokesman Jim Cooper said.
 
"There's been significant decline in family-owned farms in the last five years, being replaced by larger farms." Mr Cooper said supermarkets were, in some states, selling cherries, nectarines and peaches from the US and imported green asparagus from Peru.
 
"Imported food is putting a lot of pressure on local Australian growers," he said.
 
In the past five years, the US, New Zealand, China, Mexico, Peru, Turkey, Thailand, Italy, Spain and South Korea were the main countries from which Australia imported fresh fruit, vegetables and nuts, totalling $1.8 billion. Nearly $500 million of food imports entered the country in 2013-14 alone.
 
SINCE 2010, avocados from New Zealand have been our biggest food import, worth $240 million. This was followed closely by grapes from the US ($224 million).
 
A spokesman for Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce said it was important to maintain fruit and vegetable imports to keep trade strong.
 
"Trade is a two-way street. Effective trade means ensuring that we can safely import produce from the trading partners that buy our exports and we make sure we keep our production pest-free to export to others," he said.
 
AUSVEG chief executive officer Richard Mulcahy said country-of-origin food labelling was also vital to allow shoppers to make informed decisions.
 
He said the ACCC also had an important role to play in monitoring retail behaviour and ensure farmgate prices were fair.
 
A Woolworths spokesman said 96 per cent of the fruit and vegetables it sold was Australian.
 
He disputed the prices farmers said they were getting, saying: "On average, across the season, we pay our farmers considerably more than claimed." A Coles spokesman said there were lots of different costs to consider in the journey from farmgate to supermarket shelf.
 
"Some of the costs that need to be taken into account relate to transport, packaging, marketing, food safety, refrigeration, waste and labelling requirements, not to mention the large number of jobs created in the process of getting food from paddock to plate," he said.
 
An ALDI spokesman said: "As a business, we do not support the introduction of pricing levels that are unsustainable in the long-term and may put pressure on the supply chain."

All Media Items Share This