Epping market gets positive report

By Geoff Adams

The Victorian Government-owned Epping market, which trades about $2 billion in fresh produce every year, has successfully passed an independent review by consultants KPMG.

The market, created after a transfer from its historic West Melbourne site, was the subject of the independent review to find out how it compared with similar markets in other Australian capital cities.

The market brings together wholesalers and retailers in flowers, fruit and vegetables, and opened in 2015 on a 69 ha site in the northern Melbourne suburb.

“Overall the market operates effectively and performance is considered to be in line with other Australian wholesale markets,” the KPMG report found.

Shepparton fruiterer Sammy Rachele regularly uses the market to buy fresh produce and said it was working well and he couldn't see any major issues.

He did note that some people were forced to leave their fruit out in the open because of a lack of cover.

“I think they could have spent a few more dollars on putting the whole area under cover,” Mr Rachele said.

Shepparton grower Tom Radevski, whose family business uses the market twice-weekly, said the market seemed to be operating okay.

He said movement across the site was sometimes a problem due to the distance. The stands used by the producers were also smaller than the former Footscray market and the tighter traffic-ways sometimes led to congestion.

VFF Horticulture Group chair Emma Germano said the smooth operation of the Epping market was crucial to producers and traders.

She said she would be taking a close look at the KPMG report.

The move to Epping in 2015 was welcomed by northern Victorian growers who had easier access to the site. The report noted there was still some residual resentment about the location of the market from producers in the Gippsland and south-eastern Melbourne regions.

The KPMG report has recommended: a regular performance report be compiled and shared with tenants, improved reporting on stakeholder compliance with rules at the site, collecting more information on throughput and encouraging more customers, focus on controlling costs, diversify revenue opportunities, improve product flow across the site and do a review into how the market could assist the flower industry.

Victorian Agriculture Minister Jaclyn Symes has promised to implement the recommendations.

“I’m confident the Melbourne Market is doing the job it was set up to do, which is to support our horticulture industries to be productive, sustainable and competitive on the global stage,” Ms Symes said.

“These reviews were an important step to ensure operations were properly assessed — now we’ve got a transparent and independent view of what’s working and where improvements could be made.”