SUPERMARKETS have been accused of using predatory tactics in their pricing of new-season apples and pears.
Fruit Growers Victoria general manager John Wilson said the supermarkets had imposed artificially low prices on the industry with no regard to the profitability of other parts of the supply chain, particularly pear growers.
"The retailers will claim that they are simply moving the crop, but the truth is they are taking advantage of last year's oversupply," he said.
"They want to continue last year's pricing on the new season's fruit and run continuous loss leaders week in, week out, with growers taking the loss."
Mr Wilson said retailers knew they could achieve similar throughput at higher prices that would still represent value to consumers.
"Yet they are hellbent on beating up their competitors on price at the expense of fruit growers," he said. "Economic common sense needs to prevail, and growers and packers must resist pseudo-blackmail and insist on fair returns for growers."
Mr Wilson said some buyers told packers they could get the same product for a specific, lower price, but would not disclose who the seller was so this could be verified, claiming commercial confidentiality.
"They say they're doing growers a favour by moving the crop," he said. "They're not doing them a favour if they're sending them out of business."
Mr Wilson said growers had produced a full crop this year, compared with last year's abundant crop.
He said a number of concerned packers were forming a communications group to try to remove some of the secrecy surrounding farmgate prices.
Coles spokesman Jim Cooper said Coles paid its fruit and vegetable growers fair and sustainable prices.
"These prices reflect current wholesale prices and produce volumes," he said.
Woolworths did not respond to a request for comment.