AUSVEG Public Affairs Manager Hugh Tobin raised concerns today about the decision by Coles to cut the retail price of its supermarket-branded milk by 33 per cent.

AUSVEG is the national peak industry body representing the interests of around 9,000 vegetable and potato growers throughout Australia.

Mr Tobin said that he understood the concerns of the Queensland Dairyfarmers’ Organisation (QDO) as Australian vegetable growers also had their own concerns about supermarket-branded vegetable products.

“We can appreciate the concern that dairy farmers are voicing this week regarding just how their industry can possibly sustain prices at such low levels, particularly when many farmers are trying to recover from the Queensland floods,” Mr Tobin said.

“In the vegetables sector we have our own concerns about supermarket-branded vegetables flowing in from cheaper international suppliers. While these products could be sold at a lower price they do not support Australia farmers and are not subject to the same stringent quality controls,” he said.

“Consumers might get a cheaper product from these decisions, but what happens when our farmers are driven out of business? It’s a huge food security concern for this country.”

“This is becoming a real issue across the broader food industry, with supermarket-branded products having a negative flow-on affect throughout the value chain.”

“The vegetable industry supports calls by dairy farmers that the retailers stop putting the squeeze on farmers. At the end of the day this is really just about making profits and nothing else. They need to look at the bigger picture.”

“Australian farmers have supported the retailers for decades, helping to drive huge profits for Coles and Woolworths. Farmers deserve to be shown the same level of support in return.”

Mr Tobin cited new figures obtained by AUSVEG from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, which showed that imports of fresh vegetables between July and November 2010 had grown to $32.5 million compared to $22.2 million in the same period the year before.

The total amount of processed vegetables imported had also increased from $84.9 million to $91.5 million.

“This import trend continues to alarm Australian vegetable producers, with many growers literally fighting for their viability right now. Consumers should be worried and we would encourage people to support Australian grown and to continue to put pressure on the retailers to stock Australian products and support Australian farmers,” Mr Tobin said.
MEDIA CONTACT: Hugh Tobin, Communications and Public Affairs Manager, AUSVEG Ph: (03) 9822 0388, Mob: 0431 939 920,