The much publicised price wars between the major supermarkets continues to rage, and primary producers lament that it will be the death knell of Australian farming as we know it. The retail duopoly exerts its extraordinary might over farmers, squeezes smaller convenience stores out of the market, and prepares for a likely assault form overseas supermarket giants Aldi and Lidl on the multi-billion dollar grocery industry. Meanwhile, a local Atherton Tablelands farming couple have pinned their hopes (and three million bucks!) on a groundswell of opposition to these corporate bohemiths, and a return to a sense of community.
Warren and Gail Jonsson, from Ravenshoe, opened Jonsson’s Farmers’ Markets on Tuesday, at Stratford just outside Cairns CBD. Maria and I dropped in yesterday to see what all the fuss was about, and we were confronted by a swarming crowd of locals, stripping the shelves of fresh produce as fast as the team of scurrying workers could replenish it.
With the slogan “Paddock to plate”, the Jonssons aim to cut out the middle-men who normally take their cut of the proceeds of primary produce before it reaches the consumer. As much as possible, they aim to source their produce direct from the grower and offer it fresh to the consumer. The sign on a 400kg bin of sweetcorn cobs proudly proclaimed “picked yesterday on the Tablelands”. With this principle in mind, they sell fresh fruit and vegetables, meat and fish, cut flowers and a range of delicacies… as well as prepared salads, fruit salads and fresh squeezed juices.
During the week, I bumped into Cliffy, who sells his delicious homemade icecream in a van on the street in Kuranda, and he was thrilled to have an additional outlet for his product.
In light of the high unemployment rate here in the tropical north, I reckon that the twenty-four full time employees that the Jonssons hired are appreciative as well,. And that’s not to mention the farmers!
I take my hat off to anyone with the cojones to tackle the stronghold that the supermarket giants have established over growers in this country throughout the past twenty years or so, and we hope the Jonsson’s receive the support they deserve. Think about it… if you’re not going to suport someone like this, you don’t deserve to bitch about the supermarkets!