MEETING the challenge of delivering fresh and affordable produce to Cape York’s Indigenous communities isn’t easy – but Michael Dykes says he’s up to the job.
Community Enterprise Queensland’s new CEO will spend his first 100 days visiting the business’ 28 retail stores located in some of the most far flung corners of the state.
But one promise the former Coles and Woolworths Group executive has made is that customers won’t be forking out $14 for an iceberg lettuce any time soon.
“At the moment, the price of some vegetables just aren’t palatable for the consumer,” Mr Dykes told Cape York Weekly.
“So, do we send it out to a location, like Bamaga for example, or are we better off finding a cheaper alternative and offering that instead? We feel we’re better off spending our time finding and providing something like broccoli or cabbage.
“Our merchandising team is reviewing prices and makes sure there is a balance we offer the customer.”
With surging fuel, labour and commodity prices placing huge pressure on retailers, keeping prices down remained a priority.
Stocking goods made by Woolworths has already reduced prices on flour, cheese and other popular items, Mr Dykes said.
“We’re starting to see those products in our stores,” he said.
“But the upward pressure on prices – from the farmer to the manufacturer – is great and that’s coming through in the cost of the product.
“From our perspective, we maintain a profit margin to stay viable because the worst thing that could happen is the community loses its store.
“When you think about the conflict in Ukraine, they’re a huge exporter of fertilisers. Farmers need those for their crops so there’s a huge increase in production costs.
“There’s also an increase in labour costs. Manufacturers have had increases on raw materials … add that to the international shortage of containers and pallets – all of that goes into the cost at the checkout.”
After serving as retail general manager for Arnhem Land Progress Aboriginal Corporation (ALPA) for the past five years, Mr Dykes said he understood some of the hidden costs remote businesses can face.
“If an ATM breaks down in Cairns, it’ll cost you a couple of thousand dollars to fix,” he said.
“That same repair in a remote community can cost you more than $20,000.
“I have an appreciation of remote businesses and I think that will hold me in good stead.”
Mr Dykes will meet with the not-for-profit’s board in the coming weeks to discuss the potential for the organisation to diversify its business interests.
CEQ board member Mislam Sam said the appointment of Mr Dykes followed an extensive recruitment process and reflects the board’s commitment to strengthening and growing CEQ.
“This is a key appointment and we’re thrilled that someone of Mr Dykes’ calibre has stepped into the CEO role,” he said.