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Farmers' market blasts price war

Paul Wilson of Nimbin is encouraging people to buy the abundance of fresh produce at local farmers’ markets.
Paul Wilson of Nimbin is encouraging people to buy the abundance of fresh produce at local farmers’ markets. Jay Cronan

FARMERS at the Lismore Produce Market have hit out at the two major supermarkets over a possible "war" to reduce vegetable prices.

This week Coles announced it would reduce the cost of selected products by up to 50% and Woolworths is expected to respond by slashing its vegetable prices.

Coles' price slashing on vegetables comes one year after it outraged dairy farmers by cutting the price of milk to $1 a litre.

But Lismore Produce Market vice-president Paul Wilson said lower prices were not necessarily good for competition or consumers.

"They are not content with 80% of the retail market, they want it all, at our expense," Mr Wilson said.

"People need to understand that picking the cheapest product off the shelf at the supermarket has real consequences for farmers, the community and the environment."

Mr Wilson said it was clear that farmers would wear the true cost of the price cuts.

"Farmers cannot ask for cheaper fertiliser or fuel so they must wear the costs," Mr Wilson said.

"With only two big buyers and many sellers the market is distorted in favour of the supermarkets.

"Markets offer fresher, cheaper produce that the supermarkets can't even come close to."

The vegetable price war has also been criticised by The Australian Food and Grocery Council, which said a supermarket ombudsman is needed to enforce a fair trading code of conduct.

But Coles general manager for fresh produce Greg Davis "flatly rejected" claims a potential price war would hurt Australian farmers.

"We are delighted with the reaction from customers to our new fresh super specials," Mr Davis said.

"We are acting responsibly and fairly and our farmer suppliers are pleased with what Coles is doing."

The impact of the price war is already clear, with Coles selling potatoes and carrots in Lismore for under $1 a kilo.

However Byron Bay and Bangalow Farmers' market manager Michael Stack said shopping at a farmers' market benefits the local community.

"We don't price gouge, so if you want to buy something at a farmers' market the price is very constant."

Topics:  coles, paul wilson, woolworths



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