Australia Post’s decision to end a “crucial” delivery service could undermine agritourism operators and online entrepreneurs, industry players warn.
- Australia Post will stop delivering perishable goods from June 30
- Some Tasmanian businesses are concerned about the lack of alternative options
- Tasmanian tourism association West by North West’s Tom Wotton says the online sales convert tourists into ‘lifetime customers and ambassadors’
The government-owned business last month revealed it would no longer deliver certain perishable goods, such as cheese and meat, due to inconsistent food safety requirements across states and territories.
The move has alarmed Tasmanian businesses selling perishable food online to interstate customers, citing the logistical challenge of crossing the Bass Strait and the limited alternative options available.
Tom Wotton leads regional Tasmanian tourism association West by North West and says Australia Post’s decision could “really tie the shoelaces” of agritourism operators.
He said online sales helped convert tourists into loyal customers long after they returned home.
“It’s a significant tranche of the market. It’s our eastern seaboard states, the primary visitor market for Tasmania.”
Mr Wotton said some agritourism operators were “deeply concerned” about the loss of perishable delivery, particularly those who planned to expand their online offering.
‘Lifetime customers’ could be lost
Andy Jackman runs an organic dairy in the bucolic hills of North-West Tasmania and uses Australia Post to sell cheese across the country.
The Oldina farmer said people who visited Red Cow Organics for an agritourism experience often became “lifetime customer and ambassador”.
“Not just for Red Cow, but Tasmania as well,” she said.
But the looming change at Australia Post will jeopardise that, and Ms Jackman fears she may have to stop selling online.
“We’re hoping that won’t be the case. We’re hoping something can be sorted out between now and then to continue the business growth.”
Australia Post originally planned to stop delivering perishable goods at the end of March but has since extended the deadline to June 30.
When asked what alternative options were available for Tasmanian producers, it referred to an earlier statement that said the change would impact “a small number of customers”.
“The carriage of perishable food requirements differ by state and include complex requirements on vehicle type [cold or ambient], site and vehicle registration, licence maintenance, staff training and audit requirements,” a spokesperson said.
“Australia Post continues to work closely with customers and the Tasmanian government to determine alternate products and suppliers.”
Gourmet food website devastated
The end of the service has truffle farmer and online entrepreneur Duncan Garvey worried.
The Huon Valley man buys and sells from around 90 Tasmanian producers through his digital marketplace, Tasmania Gourmet Online, and posted approximately 15,000 parcels last year.
Mr Garvey said the business had grown threefold in the past 12 months, but that was at risk because 40 per cent of the goods he sold were perishable.
“The decision by Australia Post to not allow producers to send perishable products will be devastating,” he said.
Mr Garvey said he had investigated alternative options, including the nascent carrier Home Delivery Service, but found nothing suitable.
“A lot of people have struggled through COVID, and these people are very worried about what they’re going to do. It’s very sad,” he said.
E-commerce investment at risk
Chocolatier Malcolm Ryan fears his wares may be next to be “prohibited” by Australia Post, given it had temperature requirements to avoid spoilage.
The potential loss of online sales couldn’t come at a worse time for the Latrobe businessman as he is currently investing more than $30,000 to rebrand his business, build an online presence and pivot to digital sales.
“It’s all aimed at online and driving this business of mine, Rhuby Delights, into Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth,” he said.
Mr Ryan said e-commerce was a “rapidly growing space”, and Australia Post’s decision would disadvantage smaller businesses that were unable to secure special arrangements with other carriers.
“If you’re not in that space, you’ll be left behind, and Australia Post is leaving us behind unless we get off our backsides and do something about it,” he said.