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South West farmers will walk off the land if gap to supermarket pricing is not fixed

Claudette RizziSouth Western Times
Lauren Patane of Patane Produce has been an ambassador for our region and the importance of growing fresh produce locally.
Camera IconLauren Patane of Patane Produce has been an ambassador for our region and the importance of growing fresh produce locally. Credit: James Campbell

Without urgent action on the gap between grocery prices and returns to farmers, many producers could be forced out of business according to one of the South West’s biggest vegetable growers.

Lauren Patane of Patane Produce said she knew of many farmers who were deterring their children from working in the industry due to the stress of rising costs without matching returns.

She said she supports the Federal Government directing the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to investigate supermarket pricing but said practices and agreements throughout the supply chain also needed reviewing.

“To put it simply, worst case scenario would be that growers shut up shop, and WA would be required to import food from other States and countries,” Ms Patane said.

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“We can sometimes take for granted being able to access fresh local produce all year round in the South West — a luxury not many regions have.

“Growers can only absorb so much of these price increases before it becomes non-viable. This situation is not as far off as people think.

“Many farming business are deterring their children from coming home to the farm due to the stress of the industry.”

The Federal Government announced earlier this week they would direct the ACCC to investigate supermarkets in a bid to prevent price gouging in a concession to the Nationals and farming groups who had been pushing for the move since November.

Nationals South West MLC Louise Kingston said the disparity between retail and farm gate prices had “been going on for a long time” with the South West local economy more acutely affected as the State’s largest agricultural and farming area.

“The retailers should not be setting the price for farmers. If they stop making money they stop growing it,” she said.

“We want better prices for us. And we want better prices for the farmers, you know, the price gouging needs to stop.

“If we want a big range of food, and we want adequate prices, those supermarkets need to be held to account.”

WA Minister for Agriculture and Food Jackie Jarvis said she fully supported the ACCC review into supermarket pricing.

“It’s vital we do everything we can to support our farmers and make sure they are getting a fair price for their produce.

The big supermarkets must be held accountable” she said.

Ms Patane, whose family runs 13 farms, said it was crucial for the balance between supermarket pricing and that paid to farmers was restored to ensure the South West continued to be the food basket of the State.

“We have such a strong horticultural industry in the South West and I am optimistic that this industry will continue to grow given the right landscape,” she said.

“We have such a strong reputation, not only within Western Australia, but right across the globe for having a fresh, high-quality product offering which puts our growers and their extremely hard work in good stead globally to become a fresh food hub.”

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