The market system that flourished in New Zealand was the wholesale market system. Market gardeners, often non-English-speaking immigrants, produced fruit and vegetable crops, usually on a small scale, and either sold direct to shops and restaurants, or by auction early in the morning at wholesale markets where shopkeepers acquired fresh produce.
Turners and Growers
Turners and Growers was the most successful produce auction firm of the 20th century. Edward Turner moved from retailing fruit and vegetables in a small shop in Auckland, to wholesaling by auction around 1900. When he began, shopkeepers went to the wharves to buy imported produce, and Turner auctioned what was left over.
Edward Turner’s nine sons all worked in what became Turners and Growers. He thought third-born Harvey’s voice too weak for auctioneering. Harvey took lessons – and took on the job on Boxing Day 1909 when shopkeepers wanted to buy fresh fruit, and Edward hadn’t turned up. Harvey got high prices, and when Edward returned after a short illness, he handed the auctioneer’s hammer over to him. Harvey became managing director of Turners and Growers from 1920, and later its chair till 1969. He was also one of the architects of the New Zealand Fruit and Produce Merchants’ and Auctioneers’ Federation.
After the Auckland Provincial Fruitgrowers’ Cooperative Society was liquidated in 1919, Turner’s sons, led by Harvey, enlisted growers in a new cooperative company. Turners and Growers, which combined grower shareholders and the Turner auctioneers, was formed in 1921, after the Turner family decided to offer a proportion of shares to their grower suppliers. From 1936 they formed associate companies, and built their own markets in many other cities and towns.
In the early 2000s wholesale produce firms – including Turners and Growers which was by far the biggest – were still brokers between growers and buyers – but they no longer used an auctioneer. Selling on behalf of growers, they kept detailed and constantly updated price lists which they sent customers, many of them supermarkets. They negotiated prices by giving quotes and then settling on a figure, which depended on how much a customer wanted to buy and when.