Shoppers urged to buy blemished produce to support farmers

Shoppers urged to buy blemished produce to support farmers

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Harvest taking place on one of the Manbulloo mango farms.

Harvest taking place on one of the Manbulloo mango farms.

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As Queensland farmers continue to struggle with the effects of droughts and bushfires, shoppers are being urged to buy misshapen or blemished produce to help them out.

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As Queensland farmers continue to struggle with the effects of droughts and bushfires, shoppers are being urged to buy misshapen or blemished produce to help them out, with supermarket giant Coles relaxing their specifications.

The variations mean more cosmetic imperfections are allowed and suppliers don't have to sell their produce at a discount.

Agriculture minister Mark Furner said the best way to help farmers was to keep buying Australian-grown food, even if it's out of shape, has cosmetic blemishes or is smaller than usual.

"We know that many retailers, such as Coles, have been helping drought and bushfire affected producers by paying higher wholesale prices and accepting produce that may not be to the visual standards customers have become accustomed to expect," he said.

"Mangoes may have a few marks, apples may be a little smaller, but it's important for consumers to know that even if fresh produce doesn't look absolutely perfect, it still tastes just as good - and they'll be helping our farmers at a time when they need it most."

Coles Group CEO Steven Cain said the company had been working closely with farmers to adjust product specifications where necessary.

"Our customers are very keen to support Australian farmers, so we're hoping they join us in looking beyond a few surface imperfections - the beauty of Australian produce is certainly more than skin deep," he said.

Managing director of mango producer Manbulloo Marie Piccone welcomed the move by Coles to do more to offer fair prices to producers by adjusting specifications in the wake of severe weather conditions.

"The specifications they'll be relaxing are just superficial... and that will make a big difference. That might let a significant amount of extra product go into the stores," she said.

"There's no doubt if the product goes to retailers we get a better return.

"There's usually a home for every piece of fruit in the mango industry... every piece of fruit that isn't suitable for fresh has a processing outlet we can send it to... it's just where the profitablity lies.

"For us supplying to Coles as a retailer and exporting are our two most profitable market destinations."

The latest move is separate from existing efforts from Coles through their I'm Perfect campaign.

A Coles spokesman said the I'm Perfect range was "positioned at a value price point and is made up of lower-quality produce that is part of any harvest and would generally be sold at a discounted price for processing".

Manbulloo is among the suppliers involved with the I'm Perfect range.

Ms Piccone said all produce they provide for the range still met a high standard in terms of eating quality.

"Even with the mangoes we provide generally for Coles outside of the I'm Perfect range, we've always been able to have conversations with produce technicians about seasonal conditions and specifications," she said.

"Most consumers are happy to have a little bit more marking on their fruit as long as the product they get is completely usable and tastes great.

"Wind, rainfall, heatwaves, frost, chilling... they all affect mangoes, mangoes are highly sensitive.

"We always welcome the discussion about variations on the spec but we wouldn't ask for a variation on something that would affect the eating quality.

"The whole key to what we do is that if consumers have a really great eating experience, then they'll buy more of our product."

Growcom CEO David Thomson said waste was a big problem for the industry in Queensland with about 25 per cent of produce rejected by markets.

"Too much of our produce has been wasted because it hasn't met specifications," he said.

Mr Thomson said he hoped initiatives to vary product specifications would allow more off-spec produce to make it to market.

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