Australia: Tasmanian grower enters into voluntary administration

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Australia: Tasmanian grower enters into voluntary administration

One of the largest vegetable growing operations in the Australian state of Tasmania has gone into voluntary administration, prompting the country's peak grower body to call for a better approach to horticulture between governments and industry.

Premium Fresh, based near Devonport in the state's north, produces around 45,000MT of produce each year, including carrots, onions, swedes, turnips and shallots.

The company employs 140 people and partners with more than 80 landholders who supply it.

"What we’re seeing is another major food producer in this country unable to compete in this climate and it again highlights the concerns that there are serious underlying issues in Horticulture that Government and Industry must work together to address," said Ausveg Public Affairs Manager William Churchill.

An Ausveg release highlighted three major vegetable growing operations in the state of Queensland have faced similar financial troubles, citing similar issues including less than optimal weather conditions affecting yields, increasing power and water prices, and the supermarket duopoly.

The release pointed to continuing grower complaints that the ongoing competition between retailers Coles and Woolworths is having an adverse impact on their businesses' returns.

"I wonder if this is the scenario that Coles Managing Director Ian McLeod had in mind when he told Frank Costa, the Chair of one of the largest supply chains in the country that ‘this country has got no idea what real competition is’," Churchill said.

"Many of these companies have been in business for decades and to see the pioneering growers who make the major efforts to innovate and grow be snuffed out citing the competition by the big two is heartbreaking.

"The rhetoric about how Australia exports more than it consumes works well when talking about beef and wheat farmers but for industries with perishable product such as vegetables, dairy and fruit we need alternatives to relieve growers and escape the retail warfare currently taking place."

He says several issues need to be put on the table with the government, including foreign market access, removing tariffs on Australian goods and reducing penalty rates on farms.

"No other country in the world treats its food producers like this. Something must be done to address the National situation that major farmers are falling over, starting with a roundtable meeting between Industry and the Minister."

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