Fruit and vegetable war threatens growers

Tyson Robinson plants leeks at Yeo's Foothill Organics.

A COLAC district fruit and vegetable grower says supermarkets are threatening farmers’ livelihoods.

Yeo’s Foothill Organics owner Jo Sgro said producers would suffer after supermarket giant Coles announced it would slash 50 per cent off fruit and vegetable prices, creating a potential price war with Woolworths.

Mr Sgro, whose organic farm just outside Colac produces 15 lines of vegetables including spinach, beetroot, turnips and red radish, said the price war would drag consumers away from “locally grown produce”.

“As soon as the veges are cheap and they want to put a special on, they’ll bring it in from all over the world and bugger everyone else and the locally grown produce,” Mr Sgro said.

“I will talk to anyone involved in the supermarkets if they’ve got the guts to come out and talk to me, a grower, about how they expect us to grow produce at the price any vege is at the moment – it’s out of control,” he said.

Mr Sgro, who ships produce to Melbourne’s Footscray market, said cheap and convenient supermarket fruit and vegetables were already taking a toll on green grocers and markets. “It’s going to make it very tough, where I go to in Footscray, it’s already crippled because every time the supermarket has a special everyone goes to the supermarket,” Mr Sgro said.

“I’d like to speak to anyone from the supermarkets that can justify how they put the price down if it doesn’t affect the grower,” he said.

“As soon as the supermarket put their price down it comes straight down on the grower.

“I’m battling to keep up with the wages in this place on the price that they are now – so what’s the next thing that happens? You go broke.”

William Churchill, spokesman for vegetable growers’ peak representative body AusVeg, said the price cuts were concerning for growers who didn’t supply Coles or supermarket giants.

“The drive by the major retailers to capture market share will place an untold amount of pressure on many other growers who aren’t supplying Coles, as competitors try to replicate this kind of offer to their customers,” Mr Churchill said.

“The adverse impacts of this kind of campaign will become evident in time particularly for growers who are committed to supplying Woolworths, independent retailers or wholesale markets as customers shift to Coles stores – ultimately, growers who don’t supply Coles will be left in limbo,” he said.

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