AUSVEG remains seriously concerned about the application of ethical sourcing policies on overseas suppliers compared to domestic suppliers despite recent meetings with Coles and Woolworths regarding the policies.

‘AUSVEG sought answers from both Coles and Woolworths on the application of ethical auditing and quality assurance programs with overseas suppliers and despite a detailed briefing remains concerned about aspects of the programs,’ said AUSVEG Chief Executive Officer Richard Mulcahy.

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

‘These audits seem like a costly public relations exercise. Woolworths claimed that the drive for ethical sourcing was from consumers. Yet if they are so concerned about consumers why do they continue to import vegetables from overseas when Australian consumers consistently say they would prefer to buy locally grown produce?’

AUSVEG CEO Richard Mulcahy and Communications Manager Hugh Tobin have met with staff from both retailers in the past two weeks to address concerns raised with them by growers.

‘Any reasonable person can see that there are issues with these policies in terms of their application in foreign countries compared to Australia. Perhaps a supplier in Communist China will be compliant with the local law but it is not fair to say that they are treating their workers in the same manner as Australian growers,’ said Mr Mulcahy.

‘Perhaps Woolworths can claim that their international suppliers are meeting the local laws in regards to freedom of association, but any reasonable person knows that a worker in Communist China does not have the same freedoms as a worker in Australia. The policy is inconsistent and shallow in its purpose.’

‘All this policy does is place further regulations on Australian growers who already comply with state and federal laws, while growers overseas are exporting produce into Australia.’

‘Woolworths seem to be second guessing governments by stepping into areas that are the responsibility of Workcover, the Immigration Department and the Workplace Ombudsman to mention just a few. There seems to be no limit as to how far this large corporation is willing to extend its reach when it comes to intervening in their suppliers’ businesses.’

‘Australian growers are inundated with audits and paperwork from state and federal government departments and bureaucrats. The last thing they need is the retailers running around acting like another government department. It is unnecessary and adds further input costs that make it harder for growers to compete with imports.’

‘Woolworths assured us that going forward there would be an improvement on communications with industry which to this point has been non-existent at an industry level notwithstanding their dialogue with individual growers.’

‘AUSVEG will be discussing the matter at Board level on how to proceed from here as we remain unsatisfied with the application of these programs,’ said Mr Mulcahy.


MEDIA CONTACT: Hugh Tobin, Communications Manager, AUSVEG
Ph: (03) 9544 8098, Mob: 0431 939 920, Email: