Woolworths North Orange store manager Tony Downing has hit back at claims the store is part of a chain of supermarkets that don’t source local produce and rip off local fruit growers.
Orange apple grower Peter Darley recently urged Orange residents to ignore big chain supermarkets and buy fruit from farmers’ markets in protest against high prices.
But Mr Downing told the Central Western Daily yesterday the North Orange store would “never drop the prices to beat an independent seller” or intentionally “rip-off local producers”.
“I believe our fruit prices are very reasonable for this time of year and, of course, those prices fluctuate depending on the season,” he said.
“Obviously prices are way above my pay grade but we [Woolworths North Orange] would never drop the prices to better an independent seller or our everyday competition.
“As far as I’m concerned everything has a niche in the market - not everyone wants to get their fruit from a supermarket and not everyone has the time to go to the markets to get fruit, so to even compare them is chalk and cheese.”
Mr Downing confirmed only 5 to 6 per cent of Woolworths North Orange’s fruit was sourced locally, but was adamant he would “always seek good quality, local produce”.
“At the moment we currently have apples, nectarines and cherries sourced locally and that equates to about 5 or 6 per cent of our store volume and, again, that fluctuates depending on the season,” he said.
“I’m a strong believer in supporting local business because it’s good for the store, good for the economy and good for the community.
“It doesn’t sound like a lot I know but I’d love to see that number higher as more fruits become available.”
In a new partnership, Woolworths North Orange now stocks cherries supplied from Caernarvon Orchard on Canobolas Road, owned by Bernard and Fiona Hall.
Mrs Hall said the business would this year produce 1000-1200 tonne of cherries and she was thrilled they had the support of the supermarket giant.
“It seems ridiculous to send fruit from Orange to Sydney and then back to Orange again, so it’s great they’ve chosen to source local produce from us,” she said.
“I believe it’s a real positive and a big investment in local produce. This season about 60 per cent of our cherries will be exported and 40 per cent will remain domestically and the Woolworths share of cherries will be a big part of that.”