Farmers in Australia say families can save hundreds of dollars on fresh fruit and vegetables by buying them away from big supermarkets.
As Australia’s cost of living crisis continues, fresh food prices are in the spotlight after outpacing the rate of inflation.
The latest CPI figures showed that the cost of fruits and vegetables rose 6.7% in the March quarter compared to a year ago, with an inflation rate of 5.1%.
Rising energy and fuel prices, the aftermath of the Covid pandemic, east coast storms and war in Ukraine have all been blamed for the escalating cost of living.
However, the anger is shifting to Australian supermarkets which continue to generate billions of dollars in profits.
Farmer Guy Gaeta has suggested a boycott of big supermarkets because he says they rip off consumers and farmers (pictured, left to right, Guy Gaeta with his wife Simonetta and son Michael)
Independent producer Guy Gaeta (pictured with his wife Simonetta) claims families could save ’50 or 60 per cent’ on their fresh produce costs by buying a Sydney Market in Flemington instead of the big chain supermarkets
Prices are set to climb even further after the Lockyer Valley in southeast Queensland, where many winter vegetables are grown, was flooded in May.
But Guy Gaeta, an apple and cherry grower from Orange, in west central New South Wales, who sells to wholesale markets, told Daily Mail Australia supermarket prices were much higher higher than they should be.
Mr Gaeta urged consumers to boycott the big supermarket chains, which dominate grocery sales in Australia more than in most countries.
“The only way to teach the Woolies a lesson is not to buy your fresh fruit and vegetables there – go to the green grocer or come to Flemington Markets.”
Mr Gaeta claimed families could save ’50 or 60 per cent’ on their fruit and veg bills by shopping at Sydney’s markets in Flemington.
Woolworths said it was “always working to strike the right balance so that suppliers receive a fair market price and our customers”
“I just feel sorry for the young families. I have grown children now, but I have grandchildren and that’s what worries me,” he said.
“They make vegetables for the same price or less than junk food and that’s a big health concern.”
He said prices are often lower at wholesalers who sell to the public, or at greengrocers, on blueberries, lemons, cherries, apples, cucumbers, peppers, ginger and lettuce.
“I can’t understand how supermarkets charge $1.50 for a lemon,” Mr Gaeta said.
“Producers sell 20kg boxes for $20, and supermarkets turn that into a $150 box.”
A quick analysis of the online prices of Lebanese cucumbers on Thursday June 23 showed Woolworths was selling them individually for $2.14, 30% more than premium online fruit and vegetable supplier Fruitezy on the same day.
Mr Gaeta said what bothers farmers is the difference between what supermarkets pay them and the prices in stores.
“People think farmers are doing well. But farmers don’t see the prices charged by supermarkets,” he said.
“I understand we’re all trying to make money, but you don’t have to scam people.”
Another farmer, from North Queensland, who asked not to be named because he feared big supermarkets would stop buying his produce, said supermarkets were charging ’30 per cent’ more than they said. should.
“I would say consumers should look for value, I would say go to your independent greengrocers. If you’re looking for better value for money, you’ll find it,’ he told Daily Mail Australia.
“The phenomenon of online shopping is really biting. People don’t check prices properly anymore and supermarkets know it.
“They stopped looking for value and just started looking for convenience.”
He said it was time for supermarkets to be “transparent” about their margins.
The farmer, who grows mixed fresh produce, said the difference between what growers have paid and what supermarkets are selling the same items for is growing at a rate that is angering farmers.
“It’s all well and good to tell us ‘prices are down’ in ads, but if they think their processes are absolutely right, they should post what the farmer was paid on social media so so people can see it for themselves,” he said.
“They must demonstrate to the public that they are primarily acting in their best interests and providing value.”
He claimed that supermarkets should not cite fuel costs as reasons for the price hike, as farmers are disproportionately affected by rising petrol prices.
“A lot of people seem to think supermarkets pay all the freight – no, they don’t. For example, getting produce from North Queensland to Brisbane or Sydney is not the cost of the supermarket, it is ours,” he said.
“The farmer is the one who is most exposed to the costs.”
He said producers were unhappy that big supermarkets are making billions of dollars in after-tax profits while most farmers are “breaking even or losing money”.
“Most farmers will break even or generate a loss due to input costs – fuel, wages, chemicals, etc. Most costs increase by 30-60%.
“If farmers are under pressure, surely it is only fair trade retailers who share this? I haven’t heard supermarkets complaining about having trouble making ends meet.
Cherries grown in Australia are not in season at the moment, but growers say they fetch around $6 a kilo from supermarkets who then sell them for up to $40 a kilo.
“The ACCC seems pretty toothless to us. Where are their investigations into price transparency between what a producer gets and what is charged in-store?”
“This country has a failed competition policy. The heat really needs to be turned up in supermarkets.
Mr Gaetta claimed he was told by senior government officials that price gouging was not illegal in Australia.
“It may not be illegal, but it is immoral.”
Major supermarket chains contacted by Daily Mail Australia strongly defended their prices due to a ‘complex range of factors’.
Both Woolies and Coles are said to be signatories to an agreement ensuring fair treatment of producers.
“We operate in a highly competitive market and always strive to strike the right balance, so that suppliers receive a fair market price and our customers have access to affordable fresh produce,” Woolworths said in a statement to The Daily. MailAustralia.
Woolworths claimed prices had risen ‘in some varieties’ due to reduced supply ‘following east coast flooding and continued bad weather in key growing regions’.
He said other fresh produce, ‘like apples, pears, citrus fruits and avocados [are] in good supply” and are “of great value”.
Coles claimed that “producers want to work” with him because of [our] commitment to “strong, multi-generational partnerships…” with producers, including long-term contracts”.
He said prices are determined by “supply and demand” and that “our team is working hard to bring prices down.”
“Our customers can expect to see improved volume across many fresh produce lines in the weeks ahead thanks to the extraordinary efforts of our growers.”
In fiscal 2021, Woolworths’ after-tax profit was $1.97 billion, while Coles’ profits exceeded $1 billion.
‘Think about their free fruit gimmick for kids. Producers are struggling to make ends meet, but they can afford to give things away for free and still generate huge profits,’ the farmer told Daily Mail Australia.
The big four supermarket chains control more than 80% of the Australian market, which critics say stifles real price competition.
Woollies holds 37% of the market, ahead of Coles with 28%, while Aldi is third with 10.5%. IGA (Metcash) is fourth with 7%.
Aldi has around 10% of the market and is steadily increasing its turnover to more than 10 billion dollars a year.
Australian consumers spent $125 billion in supermarkets last year.