8 September 2015
Room to bloom
Melbourne Market is now open in Epping. Reporter Katrina Hinschen rose early to see it in action
Melbourne Market has finally opened in Epping and fourth-generation flower wholesaler Anthony Santospirito has his area smelling like roses. WHOLESALE fruit, vegetable and flower traders are settling in to their quieter, lighter and cleaner surrounds in Epping.
But they still have doubts about the new location.
After more than 10 years of planning and five years of construction, trading began at Melbourne Market in the aptly named Produce Drive, at 3.30am on August 31.
The Whittlesea Leader was invited to tour the facility on Thursday last week and spoke to traders while seeing the market in action.
There’s been plenty of controversy surrounding the move, but many of the 3000 wholesalers, growers, buyers and transport operators praised the market.
BRP Wholesalers owner Matthew Alabakis said the market was clean, spacious and had room for growth.
Mr Alabakis said he travelled from Port Melbourne to Epping at 11.30pm every day before returning to his farms in Werribee during the day.
“(Epping) is only another 20 minutes; it doesn’t bother me, I’m happy to drive that extra distance to get to work,” Mr Alabakis said.
“It’ll take us a little while to get our systems in place but once we do, it’s going to be perfect. Some people just don’t like change, they’re scared of change – we’ve embraced it and are looking to the future.”
Fresh Market Australia Chamber of Commerce president Shane Schnitzler, who is also director of Produce Time, said feedback from traders had been positive but the market’s location was a disadvantage.
“Logistically it’s really difficult to get back across to the southeastern suburbs,” Mr Schnitzler said. “Most of our major clients, 65 per cent of the fruit and vegetable industry, operate in the southeastern corridor so there are some challenges.
“We can only hope that the State Government at some point will help us and make the road system a lot more efficient.”
Mr Schnitzler said the market’s layout was “logistically a nightmare”.
“We’ve just got to get our heads around how long it takes to deliver and get a bit more efficient,” he said. “In a month, it’ll be a lot different.”
During the tour it was mentioned the Melbourne Market Authority was fielding at least 50 inquiries a day about whether the market would be open to the public.
Mark Maskiell, the authority’s executive officer, said it would be unlikely. “They’d be undermining the local green grocers,” he said.
“Whether we do a different market on a Saturday off the back of the flower market in some way shape or form, they’re some of the ideas we’ve been having.”
Public tours are available. Go to melbournemarket. com.au