Tours of the Melbourne Wholesale Market in Epping have started back this week after COVID-19 restrictions and the lockdown in Melbourne forced a 7-month break to the visitor service operated by C the Market.
Owner Jan Claire explains her business offers fully escorted private tours catering for those new to the industry and those without market contacts, to meet traders relevant to their own business.
“It’s fantastic to be back on the trading floors, not only to assist the users of our service with introductions and networking opportunities, but it’s great to again see all the people in the market that we’ve gotten to know so well over the years," she said. "In fact, our return to the trading floor this month has coincided with the 11 year anniversary of starting our tour business. The tours will look a bit different as we go back, with the need for fully fitted face masks and very limited numbers due to social distancing requirements. Melbourne Market takes OH&S compliance very seriously and if that keeps our food supply and all market users safe, then it’s a good thing.”
The Melbourne Market is a purpose-built, ever-expanding facility on a 70-hectare site at Epping, with more than 5,000 businesses using the Market as a base, buying and selling fresh produce in the early hours of the morning. Jan says people who have been on the tours have all benefited from having an experienced market guide share valuable insights to take away and apply to their own businesses.
"We offer separate tours for those wanting to see the fresh Fruit and Vegetable trade and the Flower trade, which is in its own warehouse," Ms Claire said. "This enables many first-time market visitors to gain the confidence and know-how to proceed further with their business plans and ideas by sharing our experience, industry knowledge and instigating initial contacts for ongoing business relationships. The traders are generous with their time and if asked, are happy to advise and share their vast experience. This is where much of the value lies with an escorted market visit."
Photos: courtesy Jan Claire from her first tour back, and showing masks which are currently compulsory on site
The fruit and vegetable market has two sections: the farmers and agents trading floor and the buyers’ walk containing 156 permanent wholesalers’ stores. Some of Australia's most prominent fresh produce companies lease stores at the market, with their produce sourced worldwide as well as fresh from farms across the state and country that morning.
“The trading floor at the market officially operates from 3.30am to around 7.30am, Monday- Friday but in reality, business is conducted 24/7 with distribution, export, import and sales taking place at all hours," Ms Claire said. "We take visitors through the sales areas, and sometimes into individual warehouses during a 2-hour window at the end of the trading morning as it becomes less busy, between 5.00am-7.00am. For most first time visitors, not used to an early start, this later tour time is well appreciated. Not all sales are conducted on the trading floor but on Mondays and Thursdays especially, the Melbourne based greengrocers, providores and fresh food retail suppliers come through on their golf carts and see first- hand the latest new season arrivals. Many will tell you, a face-to-face visit to see what’s happening and being able to maintain good relationships with their suppliers is their secret to doing well."
Group tours are another part of the business but Ms Claire says they are not going to recommence until 2021.
FreshPlaza ran a feature on C the Market last year, and took part in one of Jan’s tours in March 2020, gaining valuable contacts for articles.