Victorian Farmer Protests High Supermarket Prices, Abandons Million-Dollar Crop

A Victorian farmer, Ross Marsolino from Natural Earth Produce, has publicly expressed his frustration with major supermarkets over their high pricing for fruits and vegetables. Marsolino, who grows zucchinis, tomatoes, and eggplants in Victoria’s Goulburn Valley, shared his grievances in a widely shared social media video. He explained his decision to abandon an 80-acre zucchini crop, which he estimated was worth at least $2 million. Marsolino’s primary concern is the significant disparity between what supermarkets pay for produce and the prices at which they sell them to consumers. He argued that this gap is not only detrimental to consumers grappling with increased living costs but also unsustainable for growers.

Marsolino, who has been in the farming industry since he was 19, highlighted the problems faced by growers due to the pricing strategies of major supermarkets. He pointed out that supermarkets often purchase produce at low prices and sell them at much higher rates. For instance, a product bought for $1.80 per kilo might be retailed for $4.99, a markup he considers excessive. Marsolino believes that if supermarkets sold produce like zucchinis at a more reasonable price, such as $2.99, it would not only be more affordable for consumers but would also help keep the produce moving, benefiting growers.

The situation Marsolino describes reflects broader challenges in the agricultural sector, as noted by Jolyon Burnett, chair of the National Farmers’ Federation Horticulture Council. According to Burnett, growers face increasing costs, including fuel, labour, and interest payments, without a corresponding increase in the prices they receive for their produce. This situation is exacerbated by favourable growing conditions leading to an oversupply in some cases, further driving down the prices growers can command for their produce.

In response to these challenges, supermarkets have defended their pricing strategies. Representatives from Woolworths and Coles have stated that various factors, including weather, seasonality, and supply and demand dynamics influence produce prices. They emphasised their commitment to balancing fair prices for suppliers with the need to offer affordable produce to customers. Woolworths noted that the average retail price of vegetables in their stores is actually lower than it was a year ago due to stable growing conditions and high supply.

The issue of supermarket pricing and its impact on both consumers and growers has drawn attention to the need for greater transparency and, perhaps, government intervention in the retailing of fresh produce. There are calls for the government to review the food and grocery code of conduct to address these disparities. Marsolino himself has urged for government scrutiny into how supermarkets price their produce, suggesting that there should be a mechanism to ensure fairness in the pricing strategies employed by these retail giants.

Overall, Marsolino’s story is a microcosm of the larger challenges facing the agricultural sector in Australia. It highlights the delicate balance that must be struck between ensuring fair prices for growers, affordability for consumers, and the business realities of retailing. As the situation continues to evolve, it remains to be seen how these competing interests will be reconciled to the satisfaction of all stakeholders involved.

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