Big Australian supermarket chains Coles and Woolworths were "systematically removing New Zealand-produced goods from their house brand labels simply for being non-Australian" in what can be a disappointing "Buy Australia campaign" says NZ Made executive Scott Wilson.
New Zealand products such as frozen foods, cheese and fresh vegetables were being removed from the shelves of supermarkets across the Tasman in a dire support for the campaign.
Compared to the Buy NZ Made campaign which promote buying products made locally BUT do not strip off Australian products from the market, Mr Wilson said that the Buy Australia campaign seemed to influence people of completely avoiding New Zealand products as a whole.
"We have no intention of taking a protectionist stance by suggesting that people avoid products that aren't New Zealand-made. Consumers can buy things that aren't made here if they wish. What we do promote is that we make a lot of great products in New Zealand, our business people are world-class and we should be very proud of that... that's why it's disappointing to see the Buy Australia campaign using such aggressive tactics against our products," Mr Wilson aired out.
The campaign was practically disappointing since New Zealand and Australia have had agreed before to a comprehensive free trade agreement in the world but Australian supermarkets seemed like to have taken this for granted intentionally.
Product suppliers and exporters chose to be mum about the issue in dire fear of being blacklisted by the Australian supermarkets, said Food and Grocery Council chief executive Katherine Rich.
Prime Minister John Key was quick to address the problem promising New Zealand that he will raise the issue with Australia's Prime Minister Tony Abbott.
PM Key was scheduled to go to Sydney within the week and vowed to remind Mr Abbott that it should observe Closer Economic Relations (CER) trade pact.
Mr Key said that the Buy Australia Campaign was yet to be analysed whether it breached the CER.
"But whether it is legal or not it's arguably in my view a breach of the CER and we're going to raise that with (Prime Minister) Tony Abott. It primarily affects things like food for instance so vegetables grown in New Zealand don't fit that criteria and therefore are sold through those supermarket chains as much as they otherwise would be. They do make exceptions but otherwise are generally not sold as much so whether that is legal or not is a matter that we are looking more closely at," Mr Key told Fairfax NZ news.
"We can always retaliate but their market is five or six times bigger than ours so that doesn't help us much."