A Facebook post by grower NQ Paradise Pines accused the company of failing to back the Australian industry after temporarily closing its canning site, in spite of a glut in the fruit.
“If you see any imported canned pineapple it is not because Aussie growers lack capacity to supply, it is because Golden Circle does not support the Australian Pineapple industry,” the post stated.
The post has since been shared more than 22,800 times, has more than 16,000 reactions or likes, and has about 3,800 comments. At the last check, the post is still online despite being refuted by Golden Circle.
Golden Circle released a statement explaining that it closes its cannery twice a year for six weeks to conduct maintenance when fruit quality is not optimum. It added that in light of the shortage of pineapples in the Australian spring, the cannery had opened an extra three weeks in December to take additional pineapples.
The company said, a week before the closure, they received notice of an available supply from “a fresh market packer in North Queensland”.
While no mention of the company was made, the rotting pineapples were reported to be in Rollingstone, Queensland, and NQ Paradise Pines did admit in a comment on the photo that it was taken of their lot.
“As trained labour was not available over the Christmas week and Golden Circle’s standards for canned pineapple require processing within three days of harvesting, the fruit could not be taken,” Golden Circle explained.
More recently, Golden Circle further clarified in new a statement that it does not normally source pineapples from the farmer who contacted them, and that the company did try to accommodate the request.
Golden Circle also referenced Australian pineapple farmer Gavin Scurr of Piñata Farms, who had spoken out in support of the company.
“I think it’s a bit unfair to expect them to open every time there’s a few extra pineapples in one growing region. Normally, there’s not a lot of fruit around, so Golden Circle use that time to actually do maintenance on their plant, so even if they wanted to they can’t because the machinery is in bits,” said Scurr.
“Planned maintenance is communicated to our regular growers and the schedule is updated to take into account of [sic] their crop movements,” Golden Circle added.
Meanwhile, Queensland horticulture industry organisation GrowCom called for all parties to “put things in perspective” and exercise restraint.
In a statement, GrowCom CEO Pat Hannan said that both growers and Golden Circle need each other, and that “this is not a straightforward issue”.
He explained that this was a result of an unpredicted volume of fruit at this time of the year, and that “it is not Golden Circle’s fault the fruit is sitting in a pile and going rotten”.
Nonetheless, he may have added fuel to fire at the end when he said: “It is arguable, however, that Golden Circle should have responded more positively to the industry it relies upon, particularly when such good fruit was available in good volumes.”
“Growers have been affected financially and, perhaps with better communication, the impacts on growers could have been reduced to the benefit of all involved,” he added.
Meanwhile, newspaper The Courier Mail has pointed out that Golden Circle “was unable to explain why there had been such a marked decline from processing 70,000 tonnes (of pineapple) a year to 25,000 tonnes”.
This was in reference to a statement from NQ Paradise Pines manager Robert Richardson on the amount of Australian pineapples Golden Circle had been processing.
“I believe they have deliberately kept the perception they are a Queensland company backing Queensland producers when they are simply not. They don't care about our industry. They only care about the bottom line,” Richardson is reported to have said.
The tabloid added that “industry sources confirm the low-value, juice-grade pineapples are sourced overseas in Asia to supplement the tinned product in Brisbane”.
Golden Circle, owned by US-based multinational Kraft-Heinz, claims to be the largest supplier of Australian pineapple.
“All of the tinned pineapple that we sell to the major retailers is Australian grown and canned in our Brisbane cannery,” it further stated.
Coles and Woolworths supermarkets have since stepped forward to reduce the price of pineapples to $2 each, to help to deal with the oversupply.