Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Jamie Oliver fee outrage

Woolworths supermarkets throughout Australia are featuring the Jamie Oliver advertising campaign — but growers claim they are being asked to contribute a fee towards the campaign.

CATHY WALKER June 17, 2014 3:10am

Woolworths ad campaign with Jamie Oliver

AUSVEG claims Woolworths is putting pressure on growers by asking for a levy to fund a new Jamie Oliver advertising campaign, but the supermarket contends the fee is voluntary.

The vegetable growers’ peak body has challenged the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to investigate the behaviour of Woolworths, which is seeking what it described as ‘‘enormous contributions’’ from horticulturalists to pay for the supermarket giant’s touted Jamie Oliver campaign.

It has also written to the celebrity chef urging him to ask Woolworths to remove the fee that would cost one large supplier $300000 over the six-week campaign.

‘‘Growers have approached AUSVEG and given us the information confidentially to give them anonymity — that’s how frightened they are about putting their head up on this one,’’ AUSVEG acting chief executive William Churchill said.

‘‘It’s astounding for a company that posted a $1.32billion net profit in February and employs 190000 staff to be going back to already squeezed farmers and asking them to cough up more money to pay for promotions.’’

AUSVEG has claimed Woolworths demanded hundreds of thousands of dollars from individual growers to fund the campaign in the form of a new 40¢ per crate charge on top of the 2.5 to five per cent fee growers are already required to pay Woolworths for it to market and promote their produce.

Woolworths claimed half its suppliers had opted to pay the ‘‘voluntary’’ fee.

‘‘AUSVEG is alarmed at the way that Woolworths is squeezing its suppliers for more cash and are outraged at the way that the company is behaving,’’ Mr Churchill said.

Growers around the country are frightened that if they do not comply with these requests to fund the campaign their business with the country’s biggest supermarket will be blacklisted and they will start to receive fewer orders for produce, or be struck out altogether.

Mr Churchill said growers were questioning how the additional levy money would be spent but Woolworths would not be drawn.

‘‘It’s reasonable for any farmer to be concerned when this basic information is not provided,’’ Mr Churchill said.

‘‘Australia’s farmers cannot afford to fund Woolworths’ marketing campaigns and expectations that growers should contribute more are totally unreasonable.’’

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