More on the Scylla and Charybdis of supermarket retail from The Monthly:
We like to romanticise our relationship with our produce, but our actions betray us as a nation that rewards size and doesn’t choose so much as follow. If we can’t go to a shopping centre without being hauled in by the duopoly – apples from Woolies, cereal from Coles, beer from Liquorland, wine from Dan Murphy’s, a hammer from Bunnings, shoes from Kmart, ink from Officeworks, a toy from Target, a pillow from Big W, petrol from Coles Express – then that is the power we have given these two companies.
Steve, a Woolworths-contracted lettuce grower who does not want to be identified, is destroying more produce than he used to farm. The supermarket’s orders vary in volume, but Steve has to be ready to fill the largest one possible. He has duly increased the size of his farm. “I have to grow for the maximum size of an order, or else I lose the contract. So I grow on that scale even though the order is usually a lot less. Everything I don’t sell, I have to destroy.” While Steve’s contract with Woolworths gives him security, his margins are tiny and increasingly squeezed by rebates and marketing “kick-ins”. In June, he was one of the Woolworths suppliers asked for a “voluntary” contribution of 40 cents a crate – on top of a standard marketing payment of 2.5% of sales – to pay for a Jamie Oliver advertising campaign. “I didn’t like it, but I can’t afford to risk not paying,” Steve says.
Greetings, O friends and readers.
I’m pleased to announce that I’ve recently been offered some part-time work as associate editor at MercatorNet.com.
MercatorNet has long afforded me a means of expression for my often idiosyncratic take on various issues pertaining to ethics, philosophy, and social commentary more generally. I’m quietly excited to be working more closely with the editorial team, so much so that I’m putting aside my otherwise powerful resistance to employment.
While I will continue to write feature-length pieces from time to time, I’ll also be writing more blog-like/editorial content such as my newest reflection on the frozen berry Hepatitis A outbreak here in Australia.
It’s not a bad outbreak, but nothing good can come of the words “frozen berries” and “fecal contamination” in the same sentence:
Aside from the revelation that the frozen berries may be contaminated with faeces, it emerged that the two brands being recalled are owned by the same company, sourced from the same suppliers, and processed in the same factories. While “Nanna’s” invokes images of my grandmother’s home-made pies and traditional cooking, “Creative Gourmet” is supposed to appeal to the quality-conscious, the budding foodie, or anyone with aspirations to ‘cuisine’. Yet take away the packaging and they are the same product.
Dedicated readers of this blog will notice that this links in quite nicely to the earlier post on bacon – another product that is typically sourced overseas, and subject to certain mysterious processes that are not necessarily in the best interest of the consumer.