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June 05, 2011

South African fruit exporters 'bullied by Brits'

by Hennie Duvenhage

South African fruit producers supplying the United Kingdom have had enough of supermarkets and their buyers’ bullying tactics, and have now called on the British government to protect them from alleged unethical practices.

The fruit producers’ operating company, Fruit South Africa, has compiled a report about alleged malpractices by British supermarkets when buying South African fruit that are making it virtually impossible to continue doing business.

During the recent Chelsea Flower Show in London Western Cape Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Gerrit van Rensburg handed the report to Jim Paice, the British Minister of Food and Agriculture. Paice mentioned that the British government was busy appointing an ombudsman to investigate such complaints.

Fruit South Africa said certain buying practices were undermining relations between sellers and buyers. These included selling products for less than cost, buying more products than necessary, altering brand names, taking discounts and insisting on accreditation requirements out of keeping with the demands of other supermarkets.
According to the report, the major flaw in the current situation was that established prices for products and the quantities required, which should form standard business practice, could not be negotiated in time.

British supermarkets are accused of overloading their shelves to make them more attractive to consumers, and then announcing that not all the fruit has been sold. The goods then often have to be re-packed at the producer’s expense and sent to other dealers.

South African fruit producers are also unhappy about the double standards being applied regarding requirements placed on products. Retailers use certain standards to give them a competitive advantage, limiting the turnover of the producer’s goods.

Packing requirements are also a headache – supermarkets insist, for instance, on fruit being packed in containers carrying their own logos and according to their requirements. These demands are regularly changed and the fruit producer is then saddled with unusable packaging which costs him money.

It also appears that some fruit importers use quality requirements as loopholes to augment their income. Defective quality is claimed, in order to force the producer to accept lower prices than those previously agreed upon.


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