FRUIT growers have hit out at a move by Coles to promote cheap imported Chinese pears but say it shows the local product is superior.
The supermarket giant was last week selling Ya pears from China at $1.95/kg, describing them in advertisements as "juicy white pears that are crisp, sweet and delicious".
- Have Your Say in the form below
"It's disappointing, given they keep talking about supporting local product and there are still adequate supplies of local pears available," northern Victorian grower John Corboy said.
Although Packham pears were harvested in March, there were still sufficient stocks available for sale in advance of the William pear harvest, which started next week, Mr Corboy said.
He said Ya pears, which were first imported in 1999, had not been popular with consumers, with sales falling in every year after an initial surge.
"They're not as crisp or juicy as the local produce," Mr Corboy said.
"So we're not worried about Ya pears, but we're disappointed Coles won't give us first whack."
Australian Apple and Pear Australia president Darryl Ashton also said consumers had "voted with their wallets" by turning away from Ya pears, and it was likely Coles was trying to move unsold stocks of Ya pears before local William pears hit the shelves.
Coles media relations manager Jim Cooper confirmed Ya pears were being discounted to move them before local new-season pears became available, but said 96 per cent of the fresh fruit and vegetables sold by Coles were locally grown.
"We only import produce if the line is not available locally, or is between Australian growing seasons," Mr Cooper said.
This was the case with Ya pears, which had sold for as much as $2.95/kg but were being offered at a special price to help sell them through to make way for the new-season William pears, he said.
"We carry them for a short period (usually 6-8 weeks from early December) to cover the period when local pear supply is limited," Mr Cooper said.
"They represent less than 3 per cent of our annual pear sales."