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Matthew Jones

BY MATTHEW JONES

@matt_fruitnet

Fresh State calls for clarity on review

Representative body demands answers from Victorian Minister for Agriculture ahead of state election

Fresh State calls for clarity on review

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An organisation representing wholesalers and associated service providers at the Melbourne Market has called for clarity regarding a review into the site’s management.

Fresh State has been lobbying the Victorian Government to evaluate what it describes as “unreasonable charges” and “poor management practices” of the Melbourne Market Authority (MMA), which runs the market.

Fresh State president Shane Schnitzler said the government had acknowledged the organisation’s concerns and launched an internal review, led by the Victorian Department of Agriculture.

However, Schnitzler questioned the validity of the review, suggesting it was a tactic to appease traders ahead of Victoria’s upcoming State Election (24 November).

“Being internal, the review lacks independence and veracity; has no clear terms of reference or input from traders or Fresh State to date, and no defined focus on competitive market forces,” Schnitzler explained.

“Since August, there has been no activity and we can only conclude that the announcement lacked sincerity and was made to placate our concerns before the Victorian state election.”

Schnitzler said traders had outlined “numerous” concerns about the management practices of the MMA, which were stifling the ability of market users to compete with other Australian wholesale markets. These concerns include a bureaucratic failure to run the market competitively, outsourced services that are multi-layered and inefficient, an outdated compulsory refrigeration system, and unauthorised sub-leasing and car park trading activities.

In a statement issued to Produce Plus following Fresh State’s claims, the MMA said it was focussed on “continuous improvement” in the market’s operations.

“The MMA have a consultative approach to the management of the market and regularly engage with advisory committees from each of the key market stakeholder groups; wholesalers, growers, buyers and flower market,” the statement said.  

“Feedback from these groups has recently led the MMA to trial initiatives such as new trading hours and an early buyer permit.”

The MMA also refenced the work it was doing to promote the Melbourne Market and develop initiatives that benefit the market community, including its partnership with Melbourne Polytechnic to develop a world-first Certificate II and III in Greengrocery.

The MMA said the review referenced by Fresh State was progressing, but it was unable to make any comment on its content given it sits with the Victorian Department of Agriculture.

Schnitzler hoped there would be an update on the status of the review prior to election day, saying Victoria’s Minister for Agriculture, Jaala Pulford, had a responsibility to let Victorians know how the Melbourne Market would be run.

“Before people in regional communities go to the polls, we demand that the Minister for Agriculture explain to voters how Labor will address these issues," Schnitzler said.

Earlier this year, Fresh State ­– which refers to itself as the only member organisation representing the interests of wholesalers and associated service industries at the Melbourne Market ­– called for the market to move towards an industry ownership model, similar to the structure of other wholesale markets across Australia.

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