Mr Carnell, whose family farms supply 75 percent of gourmet tomatoes to Coles Supermarkets in Queensland as well as capsicums
Mr Carnell, whose family farms supply 75 percent of gourmet tomatoes to Coles Supermarkets in Queensland as well as capsicums

Shoppers told to be less fussy to help farmer in drought

FOURTH-GENERATION Stanthorpe farmer Tim Carnell is calling on consumers to be less fussy when they visit the supermarket fresh produce aisle.

Mr Carnell on Tuesday visited Coles Indooroopilly with State Agricultural Industry Development Minister Mark Furner to promote the sale of "flawed but adored" produce from drought-hit farms impacted by the worst growing conditions in a generation.

Mr Carnell, whose family farms supply 75 percent of gourmet tomatoes to Coles Supermarkets in Queensland as well as capsicums, said recent rainfall has been a godsend after two years of brutal drought but growers were not out of the woods yet.

He said the drought had cut production by 35 per cent and necessitated the purchase of tonnes of water to keep his crops alive.

Emily, 12 and Abby Carnell, 9, with tomatoes and capsicums grown on the family farm near Stanthorpe and supplied to Coles. (AAP Image/Josh Woning)
Emily, 12 and Abby Carnell, 9, with tomatoes and capsicums grown on the family farm near Stanthorpe and supplied to Coles. (AAP Image/Josh Woning)

Mr Furner said supermarkets including Coles have been helping drought and bushfire affected farmers by paying higher wholesale prices and accepting produce with small blemishes.

Mr Carnell said consumers were becoming more accepting that small blemishes or marks on produce did not impact the quality or taste.

"We have probably done it to ourselves in the past in that everyone expected the produce to be perfect, but we have to teach the younger generation that it might have a scratch or bump on it but it is still top quality Aussie produce" he said.

 

 

"The worst thing for us would be for shoppers to turn their nose up at tomatoes that might not be as firm or big or capsicums that are slightly misshapen."

He said the Coles program meant that produce that previously had to be thrown out or sent to a processor could be sold to consumers. With the drought hitting the bottom line of farmers around the country the extra money was important.

"We have been carting water for the last 15 months with six tankers being brought in every 24 hours," he said. "The recent rain does not mean that we are out of the woods yet but it has given us some hope."

 

Jess, 14, Abby, 9 and Emily, 12 pose with their parents Felicity and Tim Carnell at Indooroopilly Coles with some of their produce. (AAP Image/Josh Woning)
Jess, 14, Abby, 9 and Emily, 12 pose with their parents Felicity and Tim Carnell at Indooroopilly Coles with some of their produce. (AAP Image/Josh Woning)

Coles Group chief executive Steven Cain said the company had been working closely with farmers to adjust product specifications where necessary to give them certainty they could continue to sell their produce,

"The beauty of Australian produce is certainly more than skin deep," Mr Cain said. Coles last month extended its "I'm Perfect" fresh produce trial to mangoes allowing Queensland growers to boost their bottom line by selling slightly blemished fruit that had to previously be pulped.

Growcom chief executive David Thomson said he welcomed any undertaking from retailers to provide a fair price to farmers doing it tough. 

"Too much of our produce has been wasted because it hasn't met specifications," said Mr Thomson. "So we would hope that having been given a taste this season, that consumers will continue to choose small, blemished or misshaped fruit and vegetables."


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