Affable celebrity chef Jamie Oliver is in a jam, with struggling vegetable farmers pleading for a refund of the marketing levy Woolworths’ is charging them for ‘Jamie’s Garden’ ad campaign.
Woolworths is charging vegetable growers 40 cents-per-crate of produce to help fund the marketing campaign, according to industry group AusVeg.
AusVeg said the fee, which is in addition to the standard 2.5-5% marketing levy Woolworth’s requires from suppliers, represents approximately 30-40% of growers’ profit margins.
The group has written to Oliver and asked him to intervene to have the “un-Australian” fee returned.
“We have no issue with Mr Oliver, but for Woolworths to ask hard working Australian growers to stump up this additional money is unreasonable, unfair and un-Australian,” William Chruchill, AusVeg public affairs manager, said.
“Mr Oliver seems like a reasonable man, and he has done some good work in raising awareness about the need to eat healthy food, and this appeal to him is to try and stop growers from being unnecessarily squeezed.”
Churchill said the group is not opposed to the campaign and supports the healthy eating message but believes Woolworths should be footing the bill.
“AusVeg’s primary concern is that financially-stretched Australian vegetable growers are being unfairly pressured in to contributing to a marketing campaign for a company, which in February posted a $1.32 billion net profit.”
“Clearly this campaign could be funded from Woolworth’s own coffers, without having to further squeeze Aussie growers.”
AusVeg has lodged a formal complaint with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC)
In a statement to B&T Woolworths stood by its campaign and said participating growers are paying less than 2% of the cost of a case of produce.
“It’s disappointing that Senator Xenophon and AusVeg didn’t contact us. We could have explained that the contribution was entirely voluntary, how around half our suppliers chose to work with us on the campaign which benefits the whole fruit and vegetable industry and how participating growers are paying less than 2 per cent of the cost of a case of produce.”
“Woolworths is extremely proud of its world-first campaign where we partnered with Jamie Oliver, Nutrition Australia and Australian farmers to get kids excited about eating more fresh, healthy fruit and vegetables.
“With Australia having one of the highest obesity rates in the world we are delighted about working with a world-famous fresh food campaigner like Jamie Oliver and in partnership with our growers to sell more healthy, fresh food.”