Produce industry welcomes Supply Chain Commissioner commitment

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Photo credit Toby Zerna/Office of the NSW Premier

The industry body representing wholesalers, growers, retailers, and others in the fresh produce sector, Freshmark, has welcomed a commitment from the NSW Government to appoint a Supply Chain Commissioner if re-elected in March.

Freshmark CEO Meegan George joined the Premier at a press conference announcing the commitment on Friday. The Premier flagged a focus on transport challenges in the fresh produce sector, which Ms George says would be a great place for a commissioner to start.

“Right now it costs twice what it did pre-Covid to get produce from South Australia to NSW and to Brisbane. With consumers already under a financial strain, growers and wholesalers have been bearing this cost. We welcome any move that helps get perishable produce from farm to market quickly, safely and cost-effectively and believe a supply chain commission could really support that goal.”

Ms George says there are other issues across the supply chain that could benefit from a well-resourced, independent supply chain commission..

“Transport logistics are critical, but we are facing broader input cost challenges that also need intervention. Input costs have risen between 50-150% from pre-Covid levels, including not only transport but also labour and fertiliser, the key cost drivers for the fresh produce industry. Even pallet hire has experienced at least three increases over the past two years, and pallets are in very short supply.  We have had instances where growers have been unable to send stock from Victoria because they had no pallets.”

Ms George says a commissioner who will act quickly to address problems that are well known and well documented would be very welcome by the fresh produce sector and in particular the independents who operate outside the supermarket framework and can sometimes struggle to have their voices heard.

“More than $3B worth of product is distributed through Sydney Markets, which services thousands of growers, wholesalers and retailers. The central market system provides options in the marketplace and creates price regulation through competition. Our produce goes to literally thousands of independent fresh produce retailers and it’s critical our part of the industry is able to be heard on challenges ranging from transport costs to attracting labour to ensuring a level playing field for all industry participants.”

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