‘Overseeing poor management, rent gouging and skyrocketing costs, the Melbourne Market Authority is an extravagance our industry and Victoria can no longer afford,’ Mr Shane Schnitzler, President of Fresh State, said today.
‘The Melbourne Market is the most costly wholesale fruit and vegetable market in Australia and the only one still owned by government.’
Speaking on behalf of growers and traders who use the wholesale market in Epping, Mr. Schnitzler said that the members can no longer tolerate the excesses and uncaring attitude of the State Government-owned Melbourne Market Authority.
‘With rents costing between 16.6% and 45% more than other state-based wholesale markets, and compounding rent increases above 12% over 3 years, we have lost confidence in the Melbourne Market Authority and the Minister to deliver a competitive and properly managed wholesale market.’
‘In the longer term after three years, growers and traders are being slogged with rent increases above the CPI, on top of a recent doubling of major refrigeration charges and ongoing high power charges from permanent fixed electricity contracts,’ Mr. Schnitzler said.
‘All of this has been instigated by the Melbourne Market Authority, without consultation or acknowledgement that we operate in a price-competitive industry that is pressured by markets to reduce costs and increase productivity for the benefit of retail consumers.’
‘Unfortunately the problems do not end there,’ Mr. Schnitzler continued. ‘The concerns of the growers and traders who use the market, are numerous:
- poor management practices and a bureaucratic failure to run the market competitively
- inefficient and multi-layered outsourced services
- an outdated compulsory refrigeration system
- poor planning during procurement leading to the doubling of refrigeration charges
- trans-shipping of banned goods such as alcohol within the Market
- unauthorised sub-leasing and car park trading activities
- a non-inclusive approach to management
- a closed shop facility and failure to develop multiple uses and income streams to address rising costs, and
- kickbacks on electricity charges and a proposed fuel supply
‘Despite acknowledging our concerns during August 2018, the Hon. Jaala Pulford, Minister for Agriculture, announced an internal review led by the Department of Agriculture.’
‘Removed from competitive market forces, they are the same Department heads who have stood by and witnessed the Melbourne Market Authority act without concern for the needs of the people who actually use the Melbourne Market.’
‘With no independence, clear terms of reference, or defined focus on competitive market forces the Department Review lacks veracity; and has failed the confidence test of our members—the same Victorian businesses and horticultural communities that are dependent on the Melbourne Market.’
‘Since the August announcement, there has been no activity and we can only conclude that the announcement lacked sincerity and was made to placate our concerns before the Victorian state election.’
‘Like our competitors in the other states of Australia, Victoria needs an industry-owned market if we are to compete effectively in Australia and overseas.’
‘The industry is not a cash cow for the Melbourne Market Authority. We demand to be heard and listened to,’ Mr. Schnitzler said.