Fresh fruit and vegetables are being trucked all around the country, only to end up on supermarket shelves just down the road from where they were grown.
While the big retail chains blame rising fuel costs for soaring food prices, growers have said that a complex distribution system in which produce is trucked from one end of the state and back — and sometimes interstate and back — is part of the problem.
“It’s not unusual,” said Queensland’s peak horticulture organisation Growcom’s chief executive, Jan Davis. “I’ve regularly seen produce that comes from far north Queensland to a central market in Brisbane being on-sold to a warehouse in Sydney and then brought back up again.
“It obviously adds to the cost along the chain before it reaches consumers.”
It has been reported that a grower in the Burnett region around Bundaberg, with an exclusive Woolworths supply contract, who sends all his produce to Sydney, sees it reappear in his local supermarket. The vegetables travelled more than 2000km, are loaded and unloaded several times and occupying expensive warehouse space in Sydney, adding to the costs.
One Rockhampton grower sends his vegetables to the Rocklea wholesale markets in Brisbane. They are then collected and trucked to two major supermarkets in northern New South Wales. These stores are within 10km of three farms that grow the vegetables for the same retail chain but send their produce to Sydney.
A Woolworths spokesman said: “I think it would be an extremely rare case for stuff to go from Queensland to Sydney and back up again.
“I can’t say 100% that it would not happen. We have streamlined our system but it would be absolutely the norm to distribute produce grown in Queensland within the state.
“It’s about making things as efficient as possible and keeping prices as low as possible.”
An inquiry by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission into grocery prices is due to report to the Federal Government by the end of July.
For further information contact:
Australian Competition and Consumer Commission