Displaying produce prices would not work: produce association

The leading trade association for the fresh produce and floral industries has rejected calls from independent MP’s Bob Katter and Nick Xenophon for supermarkets to display the prices paid to growers in stores.

PMA Australia-New Zealand (PMA A-NZ) said displaying the amount companies paid to growers alongside the retail price would do more harm than good.

Michael Worthington, CEO of PMA A-NZ said the proposal would be almost impossible to implement.

“It takes no account of the fact that the major supermarkets buy some of their produce from wholesalers, so who would then be responsible for determining what the wholesaler has paid the grower?” he said.

“More often than not, produce is consolidated, graded, packed or processed by an intermediary who is sourcing from multiple growers – again, it would be nigh-on-impossible for there to be a clear chain of transactions to determine what was paid to the grower.

“And finally, fruit and vegetable prices change almost daily depending on supply and demand, so the task of monitoring and updating prices would be monumental” he said.

Katter and Xenophon believe the strategy would make supermarkets more honest, but their initial suggestions were met with apprehension.

"It’s difficult to see how it would work in practice," National Association of Retail Grocers Australian chairman John Cummings said.

"The one thing that we have called for some time, going back to the grocery inquiry run by the ACCC (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission), was for somebody to look into the transparency of prices."

Worthington said the bill would not achieve its objectives and would instead punish the very people it is supposed to protect: growers.

“PMA A-NZ cannot understand what will be gained from this proposed bill; if the major supermarkets were making such massive profits at the expense of growers, then it would not take long before all the smaller independents were under-cutting them and we are not seeing any evidence of that,” he said.

“It is a competitive retail market out there for fruit and vegetables.”

“If growers do want to get a higher proportion of what consumers are prepared to pay, then they will have to avoid all the supply chain costs incurred in selling product through a retailer and instead sell at a Farmers’ Market.

Making the major supermarkets implement a costly and unworkable system will achieve absolutely nothing for fresh produce growers and will be about as effective as the failed Grocery Watch scheme brought in by the Labor government,” he said.

The group believes the focus should not be on the supermarket wars but should be concerned with boosting the consumption of fresh produce.

“Supporting initiatives to increase the consumption of these healthy products to overcome the increasing rates of obesity and heart disease would be in the best interests of consumers and growers alike,” Worthington said.

Image: Eco News

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