Outraged farmer accuses Woolworths and Coles of pushing prices up

Woolworths and Coles have spoken out over allegations of inflating fresh produce prices amid rising cost of living

Australian supermarket giants have been at the forefront of criticism following statements by Guy Gaeta, chairman of the NSW Farmers Horticulture Committee, who allege that retailers are responsible for skyrocketing fresh produce prices.

“It’s not against the law, price gouging… [fresh produce] an essential item,” Gaeta told Yahoo News Australia. “It’s sad. There are families walking by [the produce aisle] and say, ‘I can’t afford that’.”

Australian supermarkets Coles and Woolworths deny allegations of price pushback and clarify that prices are determined by supply and demand. Source: Getty Images

Mr Gaeta, a third generation apple and cherry grower from Orange, NSW, said farmers are not getting any benefit from price increases for produce sold in supermarkets.

“If farmers got $10 for a lettuce, we’d be driving Ferraris,” he said.

Mr Gaeta cited systemic competitive failures in Australia and accused supermarkets such as Woolworths and Coles of bankrupting smaller greengrocers and manipulating farmers to get the lowest possible price for produce while no one is doing anything about it.

He added that farmers bear the costs of delivering products to distribution centers.

“They also have costs, but we don’t put 80 percent on top of the price we agreed. We [farmers] loot no one.”

Guy Gaeta is standing in an orchard.

Guy Gaeta says families are struggling to afford essential goods because of supermarket prices. Source: NSW farmers

Woolworths and Coles respond

Both Woolworths and Coles responded to the allegations, saying they are committed to providing value to customers, especially at a time when the household budget is paramount.

“It’s impossible to escape the cost of living,” a Woolworths spokesperson told Yahoo News, citing that pushing prices up, especially by as much as 80 percent, would be like “shooting yourself in the foot.” .

The spokesperson added that while profit margins in the industry are very tight, it is still in their best interest to ensure the industry is thriving.

In a separate statement to Yahoo News, a Woolworths spokesperson also clarified that fruit and vegetable prices are determined by what they pay farmers.

“We pay farmers the market price for their produce, which can vary throughout the year due to weather, seasonality, supply and demand. Last year, when the market price for fruits and vegetables fell, we passed those savings on to customers in the supermarket The spokesperson said, adding that they currently pay much more to suppliers in the vegetable category.

“The main reason why the prices of some varieties are rising is the reduced supply on the market due to the flooding on the east coast and the continued bad weather in key growing regions,” said a Woolworths spokesperson. “We operate in a very competitive market and we are always trying to find the right balance so that suppliers get a fair market price and our customers have access to affordable fresh products.”

Oranges for sale at Coles

Coles and Woolworths say they are doing their best to keep prices low, despite accusations of pushing prices by NSW Farmers Horticulture Chair Guy Gaeta. Source: Getty Images

Rival Coles also emphasized its focus on keeping costs down for families amid inflationary pressures.

“We appreciate that there are a number of factors that are driving inflation for all retailers, including increases in raw material costs, increases in energy prices, freight costs, extreme weather events and ongoing impacts from Covid,” a Coles spokesperson said. Yahoo News.

“We are committed to continuing to build strong, multi-generational collaborative partnerships with Australian farmers and producers, including long-term contracts, which is why so many growers want to work directly with Coles. These partnerships allow us to source directly from suppliers and help us secure fresher, high-value products for our customers.”

“The price of the product is a factor of supply and demand, but our team is working hard to bring the prices down for our customers as quickly as possible. Our customers can expect an improved volume from many fresh produce lines in the coming weeks. the extraordinary efforts of our growers.”

Food and Grocery Code

Woolworths and Coles are also bound by a Food and Grocery Code, regulated by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

The code, which is voluntary, was introduced to improve standards of business conduct in the food and beverage industry. Woolworths and Coles were both among the first signatories to the code, along with German retailer Aldi.

In a statement to Yahoo, Australian Retailers Association CEO Paul Zahra addressed the issue.

“Retailers are working hard to keep prices affordable for customers in the face of some intense challenges. The supply of certain fruits and vegetables has been impacted by adverse weather conditions, including the recent flooding in Northern NSW and Queensland. the inflationary effects, rising energy costs and supply chain constraints that many companies still face,” explains Mr Zahra.

“Companies are doing their best to accommodate market fluctuations as best they can and are working hard to keep inventory healthy and consumer prices affordable.”

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