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Foodstuffs would continue to support and promote local suppliers to its network of supermarkets but without banning foreign products, Foodstuffs New Zealand managing director Steve Anderson said yesterday.
Contacted by the Otago Daily Times, Mr Anderson said he was watching with interest the developments in Australia where supermarket operators Woolworths and Coles were taking New Zealand products off their shelves.
The companies are trying to be the ''most Australian'' and some New Zealand exporters, such as Nelson-based Talleys, had seen their products banned.
Mr Anderson said Foodstuffs, which operated New World, Pakn' Save and Four Square brands, understood the need to provide customers with choice.
''We try and support as much local produce as we can. But we would be stupid not to bring in things like Australian tomatoes in winter, when we don't have a local source.''
The Centre City New World, in Dunedin, was displaying a ''your local suppliers'' sign this week, which Mr Anderson said was a Foodstuffs campaign which the 41 South Island New Worlds had been running for about a week.
The promotion took the form of in-store posters and mailers which highlighted the fresh fruit and vegetables grown in the South Island and the regions and growers where New World sourced its produce, he said.
Otago grower Tim Jones was among those who feature in the promotion, having grown cherries in the region for 25 years.
The six growers selected to take part in the promotion reflected the group's commitment to local suppliers.
''Wherever possible, we source New Zealand-made and grown products and we're proud of the strong relationship we have with local suppliers. We felt it timely to celebrate the fabulous produce they offer us and the variety and quality afforded to our customers, thanks to them.''
New World was also committed to sourcing meat locally, where practically possible, Mr Anderson said.
While the news of the Kiwi produce ban was making headlines in New Zealand, a search yesterday of Australian newspapers did not find any major stories on the dispute.
Prime Minister John Key brought up the ban with Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who said affected New Zealand suppliers could make a complaint with the Australian Consumer and Competition Authority.
Morningstar analyst Tim Montague Jones said from Sydney he had not heard anything about the so-called ban and, if it was in place, it did not make sense to take New Zealand products off the shelves of Woolworths and Coles.
''Consumers expect the best products and the best prices and it would be suicidal, in some respects, to take away foreign products.''
He agreed with Mr Abbott that if the practice was seen as anti-competitive, complaints could be made to the ACCC. Asked if there was a wave of Australian patriotism, Mr Montague Jones said he was unaware of any fervent nationalism.
''People are looking for good quality products at a good price. If the best product is from New Zealand, it doesn't make sense to not offer it on shelves. It comes down to price and quality.''
Woolworths operates the Countdown supermarkets in New Zealand. Coles is part of the Wesfarmers which also operates, in Australia, KMart, Target, office suppliers and resource companies.