Fuming farmer calls out Aussie supermarkets over 'strict' rule

Food covered in chemicals or a tiny bug in the occasional punnet of berries – what do you prefer?

An Aussie farmer has called out supermarkets for their unrealistic standards that put a strain on local farmers and force edible produce to be rejected.

In a video posted to social media, a raspberry farmer known online as 'Mama Viv' has spoken about how difficult it can be working with supermarkets who "control" what farmers do — down to how much chemicals they use on their produce.

In the video Mama Viv gave an example of a situation where produce would be rejected by the supermarket.

"This is just a scenario. We can supply 2000 boxes [of raspberries] into a supermarket, the supermarket does their own checks... the supermarket will find one insect... the tiniest insect on the planet. They will find one in one punnet and they will then reject the whole lot," she said.

Raspberries being packed into punnets. Source: Getty
A raspberry farmer has spoken out about supermarkets rejecting fresh produce. Source: Getty

"We [then] have to chemical spray even more so that one bug doesn't appear in a punnet [again]. If that happens... how is that better for the environment or you?"

Viv's daughter Jasmine shared the video onto her TikTok account, capturing how frustrating it is for her mum, who has been a farmer for 36 years, to keep up with the unrelenting standards of supermarkets.

Woolworths and Coles are the two leading supermarkets in Australia, but were not mentioned explicitly in the video.

Produce loses value within hours

Farmers often use agents who sell crops to supermarkets. The agents then get a percentage of the selling price as commission.

After a crop has been rejected, it's returned to the agent who has to try sell to another buyer. The time it takes for this process to happen means the produce is less fresh and loses value.

"Because of one insect... Guess who suffers? We do, because the price falls per box." Viv said.

An insect is a sign of healthy produce

Finding a bug on a piece of fruit may not be what most consumers are looking for, but it's actually a sign that the produce is fresh.

"If a bug is living on a vegetable or a fruit it means it's actually healthy." Viv said in her video.

Hundreds of social media users agreed with Viv. One responded, "I'd prefer bugs than more chemicals!" and another said, "We are 100% with you."

Beauty standards for produce is an ongoing issue

Bugs aren't the only things making supermarkets reject crops, Farmers Pick co-founder Josh Ball told Yahoo News Australia in July, "Five to fifty per cent of any crop can get rejected because of the way it looks, either because of its size — it's too big or too small — or it has a blemish on it. The standards are primarily set on aesthetics."

Australia has a food waste problem

According to the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water (DCCEEW), food waste costs the Australian economy about $36.6 billion each year and the amount of land used to grow wasted food in Australia covers more area than the entire state of Victoria.

Places like the Inner West Council in Sydney are now asking locals to place their food scraps into green food organic and garden organic bins in an effort decrease food waste.

Businesses like Farmers Pick were started to buy rejected produce, and sell directly to consumers. So far Famers Pick have saved over 1.5 million kilograms of food from going to waste.