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Fruit and vegetable prices need urgent ACCC inquiry, says Littleproud

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It’s no secret Hunter residents have been paying too much for fruit and vegetables in recent times.

And, that sentiment is being echoed throughout the country, too.

Now, The Nationals Leader David Littleproud’s calling for an Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) inquiry to make supermarkets pay their fair share.

As families struggle to pay for their food amid a cost-of-living crisis, the likes of Coles and Woolworths are still making record profits, much to the chagrin of the Shadow Agriculture Minister.

“It’s crazy, all they are doing is putting fruit and vegetables on the back of a truck and onto the shelves,” Mr Littleproud said.

“Farmers are walking away because supermarkets are taking them for a ride.”

Over the past few weeks, Natural Earth Produce Victorian farmer Ross Marsolino said he was prepared to walk away from an 80-acre zucchini crop if he couldn’t get more than $2 a kilo in 2024. 

“I have 50 workers who will have to go and find another job,” he added.

“The supermarkets are buying our product for $1.80 a kilo but then retailing them for $4.99 a kilo when in reality our product should be selling for under $3 a kilo.

“Since COVID, the stores have got stronger and stronger.

“Now supermarkets make too much profit out of our crop… and we simply can’t survive. 

“The more you produce the more you lose.

“They dictate the price and I have no confidence in them anymore.” 

Daintree Fresh Far North Queensland farmer Shaun Jackson also issued a dire warning.

“Australia will run out of food if we stop selling to supermarkets and walk away,” he said.

At least 80% of his product, melons, is going to Japan.

In Australia, an average melon would sell to the supermarkets for up to $1.50 each, but they would then sell the exact same product to consumers for about $5.90 each. 

“Instead of dealing with Coles and Woolworths, I’m now sending 200,000 boxes of melons overseas,” Mr Jackson said.

“My cost to production is $14 for a box.

“At the moment, the supermarket price is $12 to $14 a box.

“For that, it costs me $4 per box to get the product from a truck to Brisbane.  

“So I’m gone.

“It’s goodbye Shaun if that continues in 2024. 

“But, it is not just me.

“We are on the precipice of losing 30% of farming – which is 30% of food – if we don’t fix it.” 

Mr Jackson’s concerns have been backed by AusVeg, whose recent survey found record-low morale and more than 30% of Australian vegetable growers considering leaving the industry this year, with labour shortages, policy changes and rising operational costs their major issues.

Coles and Woolworths, who made record profits, own 65% of the market share.

“I previously called for an ACCC Inquiry into beef and lamb but it must also investigate fruit and vegetables,” Mr Littleproud said.

“We need to examine the price disparity, compel CEOs to give evidence and have greater penalties for those who do the wrong thing.”

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