The fruit and vegetable industry has been facing supply chain issues due to a high number of workers having to isolate, disrupting many aspects of the chain from growers through to retailers. Independent fruit and veg shops have been able to adapt and ensure consumers are still able to shop for essential fruit and vegetables every day. Around the country, retailers have been working hard to ensure you don’t miss out. The supply chain for independent grocers is much more flexible than the big chain supermarkets.
The central market systems in Queensland, Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia and Western Australia are essential links for the marketing and distribution of fruit and vegetables into independent fruit and vegetable shops around the country. This system has ensured shelves remain stocked, and small businesses continue to trade as much as normal.
“Our businesses are a lot simpler. The farm sends it to the market, we buy it from the market and take it back to the store… Supermarkets take it to their warehouses, which is an additional link in the chain where something can go wrong” says Anthony Patti, store manager at Brunswick’s La Manna Fresh in Victoria.
Independent retailers across the country have been working incredibly hard to keep food on Australia’s table.
“Our competitive advantage of being an independently owned and operated family business is the fact we attend the markets ourselves, handpicking our own produce. Within a couple of hours of us attending the markets at 4 am, the stock is back at our store and on our shelves before lunch the same day.” Says Luke Boulous of Westridge Fruit and Vegetables in Toowoomba.
Many fruit and vegetable retailers and wholesalers have been working long hours of late to overcome the challenges of the current COVID outbreak, ensuring Australian communities have access to a variety of fresh fruit and vegetables.
“All retailers are facing similar challenges – that is supply and staffing issues,” said Peter Maniatis of Superior Fruit of Graceville, “Everyone in the shop, including myself, is basically doing double shifts at the moment. In fact, my staff and I have had to cancel our holidays to ensure our customers continue to receive a high level of personalised service. Other independents are in the same boat, but we are all grateful for our customers.”
With so much of the country being impacted by the most recent wave of COVID, the hardest hitting point for independent grocers has been having to deal with staff shortages, as in many other industries.
“Unlike larger supermarkets, we are not restricted by purchasing agreements to buy produce from a specified small number of growers. We have the liberty of accessing fresh produce from all growers across Australia that supply into the wholesalers at the Brisbane Markets from where we source our produce for our customers” says Peter.
This is the same across the country, as Leon Mugavin from The Leaf Store in Victoria echoes, “We are agile enough to be able to hand-select from what’s available every day in the wholesale fruit and vegetable market and get it on the shelves the same day. We are not reliant on long supply chains, large warehouses and huge transport companies to get our produce to our customers. We can make decisions at 3 am as to what we are going to buy for our customers that day. Buy it at 5 am, it’s on the shelves at 8 am, every day.”
The agility of the central market system benefits all parties, from wholesalers to retailers, as the market communities are built on strong relationships. “The wholesale fruit and vegetable market is about relationships and helping each other, for example, if can’t get the strawberries we normally buy from our regular supplier, but he can organise to get some from a neighbour.” says Leon Mugavin, “Same with just about every fruit and vegetable. I’ve bought produce from growers in the last 4 weeks that I rarely, if ever, buy from. We might argue about price and quality, but we respect each other and ultimately work together to get the best for our customers”
Qasim Hassanzada, from McMahons Fruit and Veg in South Australia, has also been struggling with staff shortages.“My family business is feeling the immense pressure of COVID. Home isolating has left me with huge staff shortages so what’s left of my team is working around the clock to compensate. I’m at the shop up to 18 hours a day and we’re all exhausted. Add that to the fact we’re down on sales with so many customers isolating as well. It’s the hardest time we’ve ever been through”
Stores are continuing to adapt to home delivery services and click and collect options for shoppers to cope with customer demand, however, this is still made difficult with a reduction of in-store customers and a pinch to their bottom line. Our independent retailers need the support of their local communities now more than ever.
“We are all thankful to our customers for shopping and supporting us local fruit shops as ultimately, we are consumer-driven businesses,” said Peter. “My customers have the last say and are very important to my business.”
Local, independent fruit shops provide customers with a better choice of quality, freshness, and service. They give customers the opportunity to shop as close to home as possible while supporting their local community.
Media contact: James Parick – ‘A better choice!’ National Program Manager
Email: [email protected]
About Fresh Markets Australia (FMA)
Fresh Markets Australia (FMA) is the national organisation representing each of the five Market Chambers, which themselves are organisations that represent the fruit and vegetable wholesalers located in each of Australia’s six central Markets (Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth and Newcastle).
About The Central Markets Association of Australia (CMAA)
The Central Markets Association of Australia (CMAA) was formed in 2001 to provide a peak body for the five capital city wholesale central markets around Australia. Its members include the Adelaide Produce Market, Brisbane Markets, Perth Markets, the Melbourne Market and the Sydney Markets.