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SPC workers need certainty: Vic govt

AAP logoAAP 8/11/2016 Helen Velissaris and Angus Livingston

Workers and growers at Shepparton's SPC Ardmona need certainty, the Victorian government says, calling on Woolworths to honour its $70 million deal with the fruit supplier.

Woolworths dumped a tomato contract with the company and won't say whether it will stick with the five-year deal it signed in 2014 for other home-brand canned fruit.

Agriculture Minister Jaala Pulford said on Wednesday Woolworths should be reassuring workers rather than keeping them in limbo.

"The supermarket giant now needs to reassure workers and growers they will honour their $70 million commitment to farmers and growers in the Valley," she said in a statement.

"It is clear our growers and workers need certainty that they will have a job and not be left in limbo."

On Tuesday, Woolworths said it remained committed to the "spirit" of the 2014 deal with SPC.

It also said it was in discussions about volumes and prices for the coming season.

The supermarket expects talks to be finalised by the end of this week.

Shepparton state MP Suzanna Sheed says the supermarket is being cynical in trying to renegotiate its fruit deal.

"They really got on board with the Buy Australian campaign at that time and it's pretty cynical behaviour now two years into a deal to back out," Ms Sheed said on Wednesday.

The Victorian government contributed $22 million to help modernise SPC's operations as part of the 2014 deal.

Treasurer Tim Pallas says the state government invested money based on Woolworths' commitment.

"I'm bitterly disappointed with what I hear coming out of Woolworths" Mr Pallas said on Wednesday.

"They were in the media at the time that these arrangements were unveiled, they told the world, they told Victorians that they had a five-year commitment."

That deal with Woolworths kept SPC afloat, saving at least 500 jobs and guaranteeing supply from farmers.

Deputy Nationals Leader Fiona Nash said Woolworths was happy to cash in on the publicity and the sales at the time.

"Woolworths said its sales of tinned fruit increased 48 per cent when it switched to SPC," she said.

"Promising a five-year deal and then reviewing it or ripping it up midway through destroys certainty."

Woolworths will now buy tomatoes from another provider that sources them from the Murray Valley region in Victoria, ceasing its supply from SPC.

Woolworths declined to comment on Wednesday, sticking to its previous statement.

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