Ombudsman calls out Australia Post for “devastating” ban on perishable goods from July

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Co-owner of Pepe Saya butter Pierre Issa. Source: Supplied.

Small Business Ombudsman Bruce Billson has publicly called out Australia Post’s decision to no longer allow certain perishable goods to be sent via its service, saying the move could prove to be “devastating” to small business producers.

Small businesses relying on Australia Post to send perishables like truffles, butter, cheese and meats discovered this week that they will no longer be able to do so from July.

Australia Post said on Tuesday it will discontinue the carriage of certain foods across its delivery network from June 30 “due to the complex food safety and regulatory requirements” of different states.

In a statement, Billson said the policy change will directly affect many small food producers that moved to sell their products online as a result of COVID-19 trading restrictions.

The Ombudsman called for Australia Post to provide more time for these businesses to consider their options for fulfilling customers orders.

Meanwhile, for small businesses that have been using the Australia Post service for years, like artisanal butter brand Pepe Saya and Tasmanian Gourmet Online, the ban is a massive blow.

Self-described butter maker and owner of Sydney-based Pepe Saya, Pierre Issa, tells SmartCompany he has been using Australia Post for all online retail deliveries for more than five years.

In fact, Issa says Australia Post invited him to join its online marketplace Farmhouse Direct, which allows primary producers to sell directly to the public using Australia Post delivery services. He has since used Australia Post for all his retail sales.

“We process 400 deliveries per week with Australia Post,” he says.

Issa says it’s extremely disappointing, particularly given the update has come less than three months ahead of the ban, making it difficult to find an alternative.

“It’s very difficult to send five boxes of refrigerated boxes on a pallet to Adelaide, and then get someone to deliver those boxes individually to someone’s homes,” he says.

“It has to be consolidated, and at the moment that service doesn’t exist in Australia at a reasonable cost,” he adds.

Australia Post first considered banning perishable goods for commercial deliveries in March. However, the date was later postponed until July.

An Australia Post spokesperson said the government-owned postal service understands the decision will have a significant impact on many producers and that it was “currently working with [its] customers and industry regulators to determine a path forward”.

“This includes meeting with food safety regulators and health authorities to discuss the regulations imposed on Australia Post,” the spokesperson told SmartCompany.

Under the ban, businesses can’t send meats and seafood, dairy, eggs, frozen meals, fresh meal kits, smallgoods and fruit and vegetables to consumers.

Food items identified as category two, such as chocolate, will continue being delivered.

Duncan Garvey, owner of Tasmanian Gourmet Online, understands all too well how small, artisanal businesses will be affected by the ban.

“We do about 15,000 parcels a year with Australia Post and about 40% to 50% are perishable,” Garvey tells SmartComany.

The owner of the online marketplace, which sells goods from more than 100 local Tasmanian artisanal suppliers, believes there is no alternative in the island state that can offer the same services as Australia Post.

“We don’t have an alternative. The postal truck comes every Monday and Tuesday and is delivered the next day, no one else can do that,” he says.

“Suppliers are devastated, my business and others have kept a lot of these suppliers going through COVID-19.”

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