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General News

10 December, 2022

Coles slammed over grower comments

FNQ Growers is calling on supermarket giant Coles to retract comments made asking growers to “cut their costs” instead of asking to be paid more for their produce.

By Rhys Thomas

Coles is under fire for recent comments made about growers costs
Coles is under fire for recent comments made about growers costs

Several suppliers in New South Wales received letters from Coles asking them to turn their minds to cutting costs instead of relying on a price rise.

New South Wales Farmers hit back, slamming the company and now FNQ Growers has joined the call, asking Coles to retract the comments it made.

Farmers have dealt with pandemic disruptions, extreme floods, skyrocketing fertiliser, fuel and la-bour costs, making the current cost of production outweigh the prices being fetched on the market for nearly all commodities, mangos, bananas, avo-cados and more.

In comparison, the supermarket giant made $1.048 billion net profit in the 2021-22 financial year.

FNQ Growers chair Joe Moro said he had nev-er seen so much hostility directed to Coles from farmers.

“This issue got raised at one of our executive meetings by two of the growers who were very up-set and agitated by the news,” he said.

“The comments have really upset growers - I have never seen this much hostility towards Coles.”

Mr Moro is unsure if any growers in the region received a letter from Coles as many do not work with the supermarket directly.

“I am not aware of any grower up here receiving a letter but our members wanted FNQ Growers to make it very clear that we were not happy and we are not – Coles should retract those comments.”

Growers’ margins have been slimming over the past few years as they constantly fight a losing battle with rising costs, but those have not been passed onto consumers.

However, Mr Moro said farmers could not keep this up forever and eventually costs must be passed on, pushing up the weekly grocery bill for families.

To help combat this, Member for Kennedy Bob Katter is calling on the Federal Government to introduce several laws that will provide food security for customers and ensure farmers get a fair price for their produce.

Mr Katter’s legislation recommendations include a labelling system that shows the farm-gate price and the supermarket mark up; investment in infrastructure and supply industries to reduce production and transportation costs; and divestiture legislation that reduces the market power of the major supermarkets to level the playing field among others.

Mr Katter said Australia once had 16,000 dairy farmers, but that number was now only 6000 – similarly, the number of farmers had dropped from 240,000 to just 83,000 currently.

He said that in the past two years, the price of food had gone up 230 per cent but average weekly earnings had only increased 150 per cent while pensioners’ allowances had only risen 110 per cent.

“In 1990, the average household in Australia spent $92 a week on food, they are now having to spend $279 a week on food,” he said.

“That is a 2020 figure and there has been a huge escalation in food prices in the last two years.

“I find that the CEO at Woolworths is strug-gling along at $8 million a year and the CEO at Coles is struggling along at $7.5 million a year.”

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