The supermarket giants Woolworths and Coles could be paying farmers as little as 35¢ a kilogram for potatoes and pumpkins and selling them for $3 a kilogram, the latest research from the NSW Farmers Association shows.

The association looked at last week’s farm-gate prices for a range of produce, including potatoes, sweet corn, broccoli, tomatoes, carrots and apples to highlight how much supermarket chains pay farmers for their fresh produce.

Their research revealed that farmers were being paid about 40¢ a kilogram for grey pumpkins, which were then being sold on supermarket shelves for as much as $2.78 a kilogram. It was a similar story for tomatoes and carrots.

But Woolworths rejected the farmers’ pricing and said they were not a true reflection of what they pay growers.

Alexandra Smith, “Growers underpaid for produce, say farmers" Sydney Morning Herald, September 28, 2011

Of course farmers say they’re underpaid, but really, all I’m seeing here is that supermarkets are overcharging consumers. Stories about the Woolworths-Coles duopoly are often overcooked, but a poorly functioning produce market seems to be the problem in this case. Making groceries more expensive by giving farmers more money doesn’t help anyone except farmers. So, uh, nice try, guys?

NSW Farmers’ Association horticulture committee chairman Peter Darley told the Herald: ”Farmers cannot sustain these prices for much longer and we will see more and more imported produce.” Fortunately, we have a varied economy, and people who can’t earn enough money from farming are welcome to go get jobs in other sectors.

As for concerns about imported food: start with the Wikipedia article on comparative advantage.