Growers were pressured by Woolies, despite ACCC findings, says AUSVEG

Friday, 14 November, 2014

Vegetable industry body AUSVEG maintains that growers were unfairly pressured by Woolworths to contribute a levy to fund a marketing campaign featuring Jamie Oliver.

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) Chairman Rod Sims stated that the ACCC had not found evidence that Australian growers were unfairly pressured by the supermarket giant to contribute a 40-cent levy per crate of produce supplied. However, AUSVEG maintains that these claims are true.

“We know this to be the case because leading growers from around the country approached us with their concerns, and that’s why we went public,” said AUSVEG spokesperson Andrew MacDonald.

“From the outset, AUSVEG maintained that many growers were afraid to go on the public record regarding their concerns about contributing to the campaign because they were worried about possible reprisals in terms of their future business dealings with the supermarket giant.

“This is completely understandable given [that] Woolworths is the largest customer for many of these growers.”

MacDonald says AUSVEG was concerned that the anonymity of growers would be compromised if the matter went further, which could have scared them off going on the record to make their claims. The industry body has made recommendations to the government that further whistleblower protections are required for future similar situations.

Sims said that the ACCC may reconsider the matter “if other supplier experiences come to light” and that the public support of Australian growers in response to the claims had been heartening.

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