Jamie Oliver, the new face of supermarket chain Woolworths, has responded to fruit growers who are being charged a 40-cent-per-crate levy to fund the marketing campaign.
Oliver’s representatives, according to a Fairfax Media report, responded to a letter from the peak vegetable supply representative body AUSVEG, whose members already pay a marketing levy on top of the additional fee for Oliver.
The letter expressed concern, and says the issue will be raised with Woolworths management, though concedes the celebrity chef has little sway over the decision.
“Jamie, naturally, is concerned when he hears about small producers suffering financial hardship and your letter will be discussed with Woolworths further at our next senior-level meeting to ensure farmers are completely clear about the aims of the program.
“As I’m sure you know, Jamie is essentially an ’employee’ of Woolworths and as such he has no sway regarding the commercial direction or negotiations that the Woolworths business takes,” the letter says.
Woolworths has declined to comment on the issue, but said, according to the report, that the fee was paid on a voluntary basis.
AUSVEG, who says one member is being charged as much as $300,000, also denies Oliver is powerless, pointing to his campaign in the United Kingdom which encouraged shoppers to boycott supermarkets who were treating dairy producers unfairly.
The issue raises questions about the power of Australia’s two powerhouse supermarket chains, who account for such a large proportion of business that suppliers are forced to work with them in order to survive.
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