Carps not helping Coles caper

24 Aug, 2006 07:00 PM
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NOT only will WA beef evade you on Coles' supermarket shelves, there is also a fair chance your fruit and vegetables will be below standard.

Farm Weekly reported exclusively this month that beef sold in Coles' WA supermarkets came in unlabelled boxes from the eastern states.

Staff in the meat section could not guide Farm Weekly to WA-produced beef.

This comes as no surprise to National Party Avon MLA Max Trenorden who has been on the Coles case for months.

Mr Trenorden highlighted the below-average quality of fruit and vegetables in Wheatbelt Coles stores, particularly in Northam, earlier in the year.

Anonymous Coles staff said some fruit and vegetables were picked months before they hit the shelves.

In some instances mouldy and rotten produce had been found on shelves, a staff member said.

Mr Trenorden said Coles only bought produce at rock-bottom price - regardless of quality.

"If Coles get the best price for something in Angola or Zaire, that is where they will buy it," he said.

"If Coles buy - as they claim - $260 million worth of WA produce each year, you can bet your bottom dollar it's not in the best financial interest of the poor WA producer.

"Who is beaten over the head with a big take-it-or-leave-it stick?

"Coles management say they are into delighting their customers when what they should be saying is, "We are delighting ourselves and our shareholders.'"

Mr Trenorden said his reasoning was not sensationalist or headline grabbing.

"It's for a better deal for WA consumers and WA producers," he said.

"The response I got from the general public showed that Coles' customer dissatisfaction was certainly not restricted to me, Northam, or just customers."

Coles has been on shaky ground since the days of the controversial Yannon affair, when criminal charges against former chairman Soloman Lew were dropped.

Mr Lew was allegedly involved in a share purchasing deal, which cost the then Coles-Myer company $18m in the late 1990s.

Coles has since maintained a massive profit-motivated market re-establishment agenda.

The company's underlying profit for 2004-05 was $678m, produced from a $36.6 billion turnover; 17.6pc better than the previous year and 100pc better than 2001.

Food and liquor earnings have shown double-digit percentage growth over four years, equating to a 40pc growth.

"Coles have forced down their cost of doing business by 4.3pc last financial year," Mr Trenorden said.

"They have substantially reduced the overall cost of consumables they have purchased, while substantially increasing the profits made from these consumables."

"How many WA producers have been paid at least 10pc extra per annum to supply their produce to Coles?

"Or how many WA Coles customers have received an income increase to match Coles supermarkets' 12.6pc profit increase last year?"

Mr Trenorden said he would continue to vigorously pursue the issue.

He has asked Health Minister Jim McGinty if the government would initiate random checks by an appropriate authority, such as the Health Department, for freshness and quality of produce on supermarket shelves.

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