The winner of the inaugural Department of Primary Industries’ NSW Organic PioneersAward, Rosnay’s Sam Statham, appeared on the Alan Jones Show today detailing how supermarkets are squeezing food producers and farmers.
Sam Statham, 37, and parents Richard and Florence—growers of organic winegrapes, olives and figs—began planting in the NSW Cowra wine region in 1997. As small growers in Australia’s highly competitive wine industry, they have been fortunate to have a special point of difference, certified organic, which appeals to a growing number of buyers at independent wine shops. However, as explained by Sam, it is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain sales in the face of the expansion of supermarket liquor retailing.
Small- and medium-sized producers have fewer independent outlets to sell wine through, says Sam, citing the recent purchase of Balmain Village Cellars by Woolworths.
“BVC was a classic locally owned and managed wine outlet that supported small producers. As one of our best outlets in Sydney, we are sad to see it go, as its now harder than ever to get shelf space in the remaining small pub bottle shops in the area.”
On his last tour to the Northern Rivers of NSW, where most Rosnay wine is sold, Sam found widespread concern among his customers at the rate of expansion of the supermarket liquor outlets. He was told supermarkets have offered beer at a loss in order to gain market share, or at least below what the independent outlets pay wholesale for the same products.
“If the independent outlets all get bought by the chains, small producers—the bulk of Australia’s producers—will not be retailed, unless they can get into the supermarkets. However, most farmers know that even if you are big, you will eventually be squeezed to breaking point. I remember one of my neighbours selling their vegetable farm after struggling to survive as supermarket growers, and it was then that I vowed to never go down that path, if we had the choice.
“Even large organic wineries are acting as early product developers, finding themselves bypassed without notice as the supermarket decided to buy grapes direct and make the wine themselves for their own brand labels.
Sam has started a blog called www.unchainmywine.com as a listing of wineries that are not in the chains, and as a forum for the independent retailers to share their views.