SPC Ardmona Woolworths agrees to new three-year deal to an increased amount of deciduous fruit with Shepparton food processor
HUNDREDS of regional Victorian jobs and farms have been saved after Woolworths tonight agreed to a new deal with SPC Ardmona.
The supermarket giant — under siege from political leaders and shoppers for dumping a commitment to buy canned tomatoes from the iconic Goulburn Valley food processor — has agreed to a new three-year deal to an increased amount of deciduous fruit.
The deal, which will fill the Woolworths own brand products, equates to around nine million cans of Victorian-grown deciduous fruit.
It comes after Herald Sun revealed earlier this week the Goulburn Valley fruit-growing industry was again under a cloud with Woolworths considering walking away from its five-year $70 million deal to buy the food processor’s products after just two years.
“The community support shown for SPC this week has been incredible,” company chief executive Reg Weine told the Herald Sun tonight.
“Support for regional Australia, its farmers and its communities, has never been more important and SPC will continue to fight for the Goulburn Valley and for a level playing field”
“Having Woolworths support for the next three years means we can now give our farmers certainty and they can invest further in their crops.”
Losing the contract would have jeopardised the Victorian government’s 2014 $22 million taxpayer-funded bailout of the cannery, which was conditional on 500 fulltime jobs remaining for at least five years.
It led to political leaders, including Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce and Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, calling on Woolworths to honour the deal it had made with the 90-year-old company.
The supermarket giant had taken advantage of public sentiment towards the struggling food brand in 2014 by announcing it would source its Select brand tinned tomatoes and deciduous fruit from the Goulburn Valley.
It saved more than 50,000 fruit tress from being bulldozed and secured the future of 118 growers.
SPC — which also makes Ardmona, Goulburn Valley, Taylor’s and IXL brands, is the backbone for almost 1000 fulltime jobs in northern Victoria.
There are about 350 jobs at the cannery and 650 in supporting sectors. Growers provide up to another 1000 casual seasonal jobs, from fruit-picking to transport.
Victorian Agriculture Minister Jaala Pulford, who today visited the SPC factory, said it a “win for growers and SPC workers who deserve nothing less”.
“It’s welcome that Woolworths has responded to calls from the Andrews Labor Government and farming organisations to keep the promises it made to the local community,” Ms Pulford said.
“This new three year contract is a shot in the arm for our growers and the entire supply chain and mostly our Goulburn Valley.”