Reports today that Woolworths will reduce imports of frozen vegetables by sourcing its home-brand Select products from Australian growers have been welcomed by the national vegetable peak industry body, AUSVEG.

The supermarket will stop importing frozen vegetables from China, Europe and New Zealand, instead sourcing an extra 5,100 tonnes of frozen peas, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots and other mixed vegetables, primarily from Simplot’s Devonport processing plant in Tasmania.

The deal, valued at $16.5 million, will see the supermarket source local-only for its Select range from May next year.

“This is welcome news, particularly during a particularly tumultuous time for the food processing industry. It was only earlier this week that McCain announced that it was closing its Penola potato processing plant in South Australia,” said AUSVEG spokesperson, Hugh Gurney.

AUSVEG is the leading horticultural body representing Australia’s 9,000 vegetable and potato growers.
“It’s positive that both major Australian retailers have committed to sourcing more vegetable produce from Australian growers, with Coles committing in late September this year to source all of its Smart Buy frozen vegetable and potato produce from Australian growers by early 2014.” 
“While it is encouraging to see that more Australian vegetables will be sourced by Woolworths, it is important that this is done sustainably and that retailers will continue to support Australian vegetable growing so that growers are viable in the long-term,” said Mr Gurney.
According to Woolworths, the deal is projected to require the planting of an additional 650 hectares of vegetable crop to fulfil the new contract.
“This is vital assistance for Simplot’s Tasmanian growers, as the processing company earlier this year announced that it may be forced to close its Devonport plant within a number of years if its bottom line didn’t improve.”
In 2011-12, $908 million of vegetables were imported to Australia from countries such as China and New Zealand.
“We urge consumers to go out and actively choose these Australian-sourced products that are grown to an incredibly high standard of quality and safety by Australian families.”
“A recent reminder of the dangers present in some imported frozen produce included fragments of broken glass that were discovered in bags of frozen broccoli florets imported from China.”
“We would urge both retailers to continue this positive trend and expand their Australian sourcing to other lines and commodities,” said Mr Gurney.
MEDIA CONTACT: Hugh Gurney, Spokesperson, AUSVEG.
Phone: (03) 9882 0277 Mobile: 0410 047 432 E-mail: