Supermarket giant’s pineapple pledge

PINEAPPLE cakes, smoothies and salad, Townsville residents are being urged to make every use of the fruit after Woolworths announced it would buy 75 bins of pineapples to support struggling farmers.

Woolworths yesterday said it would buy 22.5 tonnes of pineapples from North Queensland growers to help relieve farmers amid the furore surrounding Golden Circle's decision to close its cannery.

Isaac Do Rozario and Zoey Andros of Woolworths City Arcade are getting ready for the influx on pineapples.
Isaac Do Rozario and Zoey Andros of Woolworths City Arcade are getting ready for the influx on pineapples.

The issue was brought into the spotlight by Rollingstone farm NQ Paradise Pines on Tuesday when it posted a photo showing a mountain of pineapples rotting in a field.

The post went viral with 21,000 shares and 3400 comments about the fate of the state's $80 million pineapple ­industry.

Golden Circle was accused of leaving farmers in limbo after shutting its Brisbane cannery during a shortage despite large quantities of North Queensland product being available.

The company, a subsidiary of US-based Kraft Heinz, said it processed more than 25,000 tonnes of Australian pineapples last year, which was less than expected because of a shortage caused by a seasonal weather variation in spring.

It said the closure was a routine measure to allow for maintenance work and that it delayed the closure due to the shortage.

The Townsville Bulletin put the issue on the front page and it was noticed by the group manager of Woolworths Townsville Richard Matthews who, aided by the company, decided to take action.

"We became aware of the issue after reading stories in the press and engaged our buyers to contact local suppliers who had excess fruit," he said. "We then engaged our store teams to take 22.5 tonnes of pineapples to sell in stores for next week.

"If there's enough demand we'll look at that again later in the week."

The pineapples are being brought to a central Townsville distribution centre before being shipped out to 40 stores in Cairns, Mackay and Townsville.

Mr Matthews said the fruit was being sourced from farmers in Mareeba. Often major chains buy pineapples which are green and it takes time for them to ripen.

But in this case the fruit will be ripe and ready to eat.

"It's a good North Queensland product that people can take home and eat straight away," Mr Matthews said. Woolworths is not expected to make much profit from the fruit which will sell for $1.90 each.

"We're doing this to take 22,500kg of fruit out of landfill," Mr Matthews said.

"I wanted to do the right thing rather than let it go to waste."