Viewpoints from Aussie Cuisine

  • The Supermarket duopoly engaged in a long running price war, in the battle for market share, placed some producers in an impossible financial predicament through their pricing demands.

  • Increased public awareness about the provenance of their produce has been a major factor in the growth of Farmers’ Markets.

  • Markets have existed since colonisation, but the strict criteria and charter defined by the industry body, has assisted consumers in locating and patronising accredited options.

  • Consumers have to be careful in establishing the bona-fides of the stallholder and their produce to protect themselves against the practice of reselling.

by Dane Richards

The Australian Farmers’ Markets Association defines a Farmers’ Market as follows: “A Farmers’ Market is a predominantly fresh food market that operates regularly within a community, at a focal public location that provides a suitable environment for farmers and specialty food producers to sell farm-origin and associated value-added specialty foods for human consumption, and plant products directly to customers.”
It may come as a surprise, that it took a former model and British immigrant, Elizabeth Taylor to open the first official Australian farmer’s market in 1995 at Frenchs Forest, having done likewise previously in the United Kingdom at Spitalfields in 1992. Whilst market stalls selling a variety of goods have operated in some guise since Colonial Settlement, the strict accountable criteria of products recommended for sale at Farmers’ Markets have only been strictly defined and regulated in more contemporary times:

Primary food products

A primary food product for human consumption sold in its raw form that has not been processed or manufactured in any way, other than packaged.

Seafood, game and foraged foods

Seafood (salt or freshwater), game or foraged food that has been caught, hunted or gathered.

Value-Added Foods

Whereby the raw / fresh food/ ingredient for human consumption is modified by means of a cooking or related process eg: brining, fermenting, marinating, smoking, drying, that process undertaken by the specialty producer.

Specialty food products

Made from primary farm origin produce, which has been cooked, processed, combined or substantially altered from the raw ingredient, to which additional food ingredients may have been added to create a new value-added specialty food for human consumption.

Garden Inputs

Products derived from an entire production life cycle that takes place on the producer’s property or other properties to which the producer has access. i.e. worm farms and their associated by-products, fertilisers such as chook manure, pea straw and lucerne.

Small livestock

Farm reared edible small livestock and poultry predominantly raised on the producers’ farm for live sale. eg: poultry, rabbits, sheep, piglets, kids.

Woolworths and Coles

Wooloworths and Coles – the two major Australian supermarkets

Whilst the format adopted in Australia was largely replicated from its success in the UK, which has now grown to over 400 Farmers’ markets, the primary necessity in Australia has largely been driven by the pricing pressure the Supermarket duopoly has been placing on the farmers over a period of time in the battle for market share. For many farmers it reached critical mass when the price they were being offered, in some cases, was lower than the actual cost of production. The opportunity to completely bypass the problem, and sell directly to the public was therefore a very attractive alternative. It was also timed perfectly with the public developing a greater sense of awareness about the provenance of their produce.

Unfortunately, it has been discovered that a small minority of unscrupulous stallholders in Farmers’ Markets have backfilled their stock by reselling produce from other wholesale sources, to both satisfy demand and increase their profit margins. This practice has been exposed, and condemned by The Australian Farmers’ Markets Association whose charter explicitly forbids such actions. Overall, the growth of Farmers’ Markets has brought greater focus to the provenance of what Australians eat, and has also provided Chefs with an opportunity to network with the producer directly, which does influence the dishes in their restaurants, and contributes to the ongoing development of Australian cuisine.