Woolworths has canned its contract to buy SPC’s tomatoes and won’t say whether it will honour a $70 million fruit deal signed in 2014.
The supermarket giant has been labelled “cynical” in trying to renegotiate its fruit deal with Shepparton’s SPC Ardmona just two years into a five-year deal, the area’s local state MP says.
“They really got on board with the Buy Australian campaign at that time and it’s pretty cynical behaviour now two years into a deal to back out,” independent MP for Shepparton Suzanna Sheed told reporters on Wednesday.
The Victoria government contributed $22 million to help modernise SPC’s operations as part of the 2014 deal.
The supermarket giant on Tuesday said it was in discussions about volumes and prices for the coming season – something it does every year.
But the contract to take SPC’s tomatoes, separate to other canned fruit, has ended and won’t be renewed.
Woolworths will buy tomatoes from another provider that sources them from the Murray Valley region in Victoria.
The supermarket giant said it remained committed to the “spirit” of the 2014 deal with SPC.
That deal kept the Shepparton cannery afloat, saving at least 500 jobs and guaranteeing supply from farmers.
Treasurer Tim Pallas says SPC and the state government invested money based on Woolworths’ commitment.
“I’m bitterly disappointed with what I hear coming out of Woolworths (now),” Mr Pallas told reporters on Wednesday.
“They were in the media at the time that these arrangements were unveiled, they told the world, they told Victorians that they had a five-year commitment.”
Woolworths says talks with SPC will conclude this week.