Australian veg growers plead with Jamie Oliver to ask Woolworths to give money back

Australian vegetable growers body AUSVEG has written to celebrity chef Jamie Oliver requesting that he asks Woolworths to give refunds to struggling farmers, who have contributed to a massive new marketing campaign.

AUSVEG last week went public with revelations Woolworths was asking vegetable growers to contribute an additional 40 cents-per-crate of produce supplied to the retailer, to help fund the comprehensive marketing campaign, involving Mr Oliver. Growers supplying Woolworths already pay up to five per cent of the value of their produce to the retailer for marketing, with this extra 40 cent charge equating to approximately an additional 2.5 per cent for marketing.

The extra 2.5 per cent in real terms represents about 30-40 per cent of their profit margin.

“We have now taken the step of writing to Mr Oliver to ask that he intervenes and pleads with Woolworths to refund this money to Australian vegetable growers,” said AUSVEG Public Affairs Manager William Churchill.

AUSVEG is the leading horticultural body representing Australia’s 9,000 vegetable and potato growers.

“We have no issue with Mr Oliver, but for Woolworths to ask hard working Australian growers to stump up this additional money is unreasonable, unfair and un-Australian.”

“Mr Oliver seems like a reasonable man, and he has done some good work in raising awareness about the need to eat healthy food, and this appeal to him is to try and stop growers from being unnecessarily squeezed.”

Mr Churchill said despite the enormous wave of public support for Australian growers when Woolworth’s behaviour came to light last week, many farmers had already contributed money to the campaign and had been left significantly out of pocket.

“AUSVEG is not opposed to the campaign per se and indeed supports trying to encourage children to eat healthier, but not at the expense of farmers’ businesses or their profitability,” said Mr Churchill.

“AUSVEG’s primary concern is that financially-stretched Australian vegetable growers are being unfairly pressured in to contributing to a marketing campaign for a company, which in February posted a $1.32 billion net profit.”

“Clearly this campaign could be funded from Woolworth’s own coffers, without having to further squeeze Aussie growers.”

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