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Fruit and veg markets look to freshen up with youth

Business

The challenges of fruit fly outbreaks and COVID lockdowns have the South Australian Produce Market looking to the next generation of leaders in the fruit and veg industry to guide it into the future.

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The Pooraka wholesale market, which was based in Adelaide’s East End for more than a century until relocating to the northern suburbs in 1987, has appointed a Next Generation Committee to help drive change and modernise practices.

The market trades more than 250,000 tonnes of fresh fruit and vegetable a year with a wholesale value of almost $600 million. The 22-hectare site is visited by more than 2000 workers every day.

However, the practice of face-to-face buyers inspecting produce and discussing prices with growers has changed little over time.

The new committee features a dozen young industry leaders, including five women, with office bearers at the inaugural meeting last week.

The Next Generation Committee will be chaired by Joyce Ceravolo from Ashton Valley Fresh, a 2019 alumnus of InDaily‘s 40 Under 40, with Jessica Clift from Metropolitan Fresh Findon as Deputy Chair.

Zerella Fresh’s Renee Pye is also on the committee.

Pye, 26, is marketing manager at Zerella Fresh and is also on the AUSVEG Australia Board.

She said COVID-19 and other interruptions such as fruit fly outbreaks in parts of Adelaide had fast-tracked the thought process around how technology could be used to modernise the market system.

“I think it definitely highlighted that you don’t need to have as many people on site – it’s not so necessary to be walking around and negotiating,” Pye said.

“You can actually pick up the phone or use a new sales system  – as great as those personal interactions are, they have been highlighted as a bit of a time-waster and there are other platforms that can be used.”

Zerella Fresh is a major SA potato, onion and carrot producer employing about 450 people.

Pye said while the company’s direct sales to major supermarkets and supply deals had been strong throughout the pandemic, sales to restaurants and the foodservice industry had suffered.

“We’ve got a stall (at the Porraka market) ourselves and we sell to the IGAs and Foodlands in SA and a few different restaurants,” she said.

“I pop in once a week to see what’s happening in the market and for us as a wholesaler in the market we’ve found it pretty quiet.”

The Next Generation Committee will meet monthly and report to the main market board while also being involved with strategic planning sessions.

SA Produce Markets chair Joanna Andrew said the establishment of the committee aimed to encourage new ideas particularly in the areas of technology and biosecurity that would play a huge role in the evolution of the market over the coming decades.

“The key to longevity is engaging the next generation and there are some great people on this board who are going to be the leaders in the fruit and veg industry so it’s a prime opportunity to have them step up and ultimately become the next leaders of the market,” she said.

“The Next Generation Committee will provide a collective voice to young persons engaged in the fruit and vegetable industries on a range of issues on the agenda including our circular economy, a B2B online purchasing platform, market branding and market operations.”

Committee members were selected through an expression of interest followed by an interview process.

Andrew said it was refreshing to see a good number of women on the committee.

“It’s great to have new voices from a youth perspective but also from a gender perspective as well and it gives me a great feeling of confidence that there is going to be a strong next generation for the market,” she said.

The committee members are: Chloe Brookes (M&C Fruit and Vegetables), Glenn Carningham (Lenswood Apples), Joseph Ceravolo (Ashton Valley Fresh), Joyce Ceravolo (Ashton Valley Fresh), Frank Chiera (Chiera and Sons Fresh Market), Jessica Clift (Metropolitan Fresh Findon), Dino Labbozzetta (Adelaide Fresh Fruiterers Morphett Vale), Luke Manno (Farmhouse Fresh), Ashley Patterson (Waggon Wheels Fruit Market), Renee Pye (Zerella Fresh), Mark Russo (Adelaide Hydro Fresh) and Adam Sapio (Scalzi Produce).

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