With fresh food producers facing some of the toughest growing conditions on record, grocery shoppers are being urged to not be too fussy when buying their fruit and vegetables.
Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries Mark Furner says the best way Aussies can help farmers is to keep buying Australian-grown food, even if it’s out of shape, has cosmetic blemishes or is smaller than usual.
“We know that many retailers, such as Coles, have been helping drought and bushfire affected producers by paying higher wholesale prices and accepting produce that may not be to the visual standards customers have become accustomed to expect,” Mr Furner said.
“Mangoes may have a few marks, apples may be a little smaller, but it’s important for consumers to know that even if fresh produce doesn’t look absolutely perfect, it still tastes just as good – and they’ll be helping our farmers at a time when they need it most.
“Supporting our farmers is vital to supporting regional jobs and regional economies.”
Fourth-generation horticulturist Tim Carnell from Stanthorpe, Queensland has been severely impacted by prolonged drought and recent hail storms impacting his crops of field grown gourmet tomatoes and capsicums.
“This past 18 months has seen some of the most challenging growing conditions of our generation. Despite this, we have still managed to supply Australian households with quality fresh produce.”
“The worst thing for us would be for shoppers to turn their nose up at tomatoes that might not be as firm or big, or capsicums that are slightly miss-shaped” he said.
“It’s critical for the long-term survival of Aussie farmers that customers continue to buy and enjoy the fresh food we grow, even if it’s not perfect to look at.”
Growcom CEO David Thomson welcomed any undertaking from retailers to provide a fair price to farmers doing it tough.
“Our farmers are proud of what they grow and we know that consumers love what our farmers produce. We know this produce still tastes great and is just as good for you, even when it is not quite picture-perfect.”
“Too much of our produce has been wasted because it hasn’t met specifications. So we’d hope having been given a taste this season, that consumers will continue to choose small, blemished or misshaped fruits and vegetables.”
Coles Group CEO Steven Cain said the company had been working closely with farmers to adjust product specifications where necessary, to give them certainty that they could continue to sell their produce.
“Our customers are very keen to support Australian farmers, so we’re hoping they join us in looking beyond a few surface imperfections – the beauty of Australian produce is certainly more than skin deep,” he said.