Woolworths must abide by its 2014 agreement to source its canned fruit product from SPC Independent Member for Shepparton District Suzanna Sheed said in the Victorian Parliament this week.
“It was distressing to learn that the supermarket giant was reviewing its agreement with our local homegrown company, a company which has been an icon in the Shepparton district since 1917, and even more disappointing to learn that the tomato deal was axed less than twelve hours after the news broke,” Ms Sheed said.
“It is an agreement being disregarded only two years into what was a five-year, $70 million handshake, making it well beyond a huge disappointment, with ripples across the Goulburn Valley.
“A Woolworths spokesperson was quoted in the Herald Sun this week, stating the company regularly reviews its sourcing agreements to ensure it is getting great produce at the best value for its customers, but at what cost?
The headlines alone drive uncertainty through the fruit-growing community, as orchardists hear the echo of 2012, when SPC was forced to axe contracts just as orchardists were preparing trees for the next season,” she said.
Ms Sheed reflected on when the supermarket deal was struck in 2014, when SPC was in “dire straits”.
“The then Napthine government financed $22 million, with SPC’s parent company, Coca-Cola Amatil, investing a further $78 million to ensure the icon would remain.
“The Australian community rallied, the social media campaign #SPCSunday took off and sales of SPC products soared by more than 50 per cent in one week,” she said.
“People want Australian produce. When they pick up a can of fruit they want to know that it is clean, quality fruit, and the best way they can ensure that is by buying smart and buying local.
Here we see Woolworths failing to stand by a five-year deal when it should be securing future contracts for Australian-made produce,” she said.
“My understanding is the negotiations for the canned fruit products are ongoing, as part of an annual review.
“Our orchardists can’t afford to supply to the company at any cheaper rates, just as SPC can’t afford to supply to the supermarket at a lower cost.
“When the deal was struck in 2014, Woolworths said it was “standing beside” the SPC suppliers “for the long-term”.
It’s time for Woolworths to show it’s true support for the Aussie farmer,” Ms Sheed said.
Sueanne McCumstie 0428 743 880│firstname.lastname@example.org