Member for Maranoa, Leader of The Nationals and Shadow Agriculture Minister David Littleproud is calling for an Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) Inquiry into fruit and vegetables, to make supermarkets pay their fair share.
“As families struggle to pay for their food amid a cost-of-living crisis, supermarkets are still making record profits, even though all they are doing is putting fruit and vegetables on the back of a truck and onto the supermarket shelves,” Mr Littleproud said.
“Farmers are walking away because supermarkets are taking them for a ride.”
Daintree Fresh Far North Queensland farmer Shaun Jackson is warning Australia will run out of food as farmers stop selling to supermarkets and walk away.
He said 80 per cent of his product, melons, is now going to Japan because in Australia, an average melon would sell to supermarkets for up to $1.50 each, but supermarkets would then sell the product to consumers for around $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, right now 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.
“It’s not just me. We are on the precipice of losing 30 per cent of farming – which is 30 per cent 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 per cent of Australian vegetable growers considering leaving the industry this year, with labour shortages, policy changes and rising operational costs their major concerns.
Coles and Woolworths own 65 per cent of the market share and made record profits of more than $1 billion each last year.
Mr Littleproud said a Senate Inquiry into grocery prices won’t go far enough.
“I previously called for an ACCC Inquiry into beef and lamb but it must also now investigate fruit and vegetables – we need to investigate the price disparity, compel CEOs to give evidence and have greater penalties for those who do the wrong thing, including not paying farmers a fair price.”
This article appeared in the Allora Advertiser, 10 January 2024.